While New Zealand's SMEs (small to medium enterprise) employ approximately a third of New Zealand's 2.6 million work force and account for around 25% of our economic activity, recent international research focused on youth employment, shows that both 'Gen Z' and Millennials have little appetite for working in this innovative and 'grass-roots' sector.

Surveying more than 1,500 16-25 year olds who have recently left, or were soon to leave education, the Youthsight study found that only 35% of young people would like to work for a SME.

What's wrong with SMEs?

Youth surveyed in the study cited a range of areas that dissuaded them from seeking employment within this sector, including:

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Lack of job security (56%), expectation of a poor salary (46%), lack of career path / progression (33%), lack of training opportunities (28%), lack of a clear business plan (18%), not as impressive on their CV as a bigger organisation or well-known brand (17%) and lack of ability to work abroad (17%).

Other interesting findings included that 19% were "not aware of the opportunities for working for a small company" and 7% of "friends and family have had bad experiences within a SME".

How do I make my SME more attractive?

If you are an owner or employer within a SME, It's important to let your prospective talent know about the value you can bring them and their long-term careers. Great ways to let the 'Gen Z' and Millennial set understand your business value includes:

Fast moving business – SMEs usually are 'swifter of foot' in terms of decision making, allowing decisions to be made without having to go through layers of management.

Innovation – New Zealand is a nation of innovators. If this is true of your business, ensure you make a case and demonstrate how your innovative products and services are in use in local or international markets.

Multi-skilled – To work effectively in a SME, you have to be multi-skilled, as there are few specialists in organisations with few staff. You learn to turn your hand to many different things and the 'all hands on deck' approach also means that there is usually more day to day variety in a SME position.

Room to grow in the organisation – While many youth feel that there may be a lack of career path or progression in an SME, the opposite may also be true. Instead of four staff layers to get the title 'Manager' in a large business, this many only be one promotion away for those in a smaller firm. Letting young job seekers understand your value to them and their career, might just ensure you recruit talented people into your company for years to come!

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Contact Tom O'Neil and the team at CV.CO.NZ for a free CV or LinkedIn assessment.