It is true when they say that small businesses are the backbone of this country, and when you realise that small businesses provide more than 15.6 million jobs for British workers, you can see why this sector is so important to our economy!

Many small businesses are planning to hire staff in the months ahead, however according to research conducted by eBay, small business owners are going against the grain when outlining who would make the perfect employee.

Age over qualifications

According to new date released jointly by the eBay Employee Skills Index, in partnership with YouGov, SMEs now value practical hands-on skills and experience over and above traditional academic achievements. In fact 56 percent of SMEs surveyed for the study placed a far higher value on experience above all else. The study also revealed that age was irrelevant in the face of practical skills, so this can be interpreted as great news for older workers with the skills and experience that younger workers may lack.

With more than 900,000 50-64 year olds now in work than back in 2010, seven out of ten SME employers now describe an applicant as needing to have a degree as ‘unimportant’ when compared to possessing soft skills instead.

Multi-skills more desirable

The report goes on to say that 61 percent of small business owners favour job applicants with a strong grasp of marketing and advertising, with just over half placing importance on an ability to use social media. This only goes to highlight the increasing importance of social media within a company’s marketing approach.

Social media plays a vital role for more than 50 percent of shoppers who will make purchases solely based on the recommendations coming through social media platforms, according to Nielsen research, with employers looking to employ staff with good social media skills and digital capabilities such as coding. For a small business it is vitally important that they employ marketing staff that know how to leverage social media to its best advantage.

The many small businesses who trade on eBay are seeking to bring in more in-house expertise to optimise their eBay store or shop window. Tanya Lawler, vice president at eBay UK says, “The nature of business, especially online retail, is changing rapidly. Our business-savvy SME community is on the look-out for versatile talent, regardless of age, background or gender, with the personable skills and life experience to help them develop and grow.”

Digitally savvy traders on eBay have learned to become a multi-skilled in order to be successful. With many traders being either sole traders, partnerships with only two or three staff, to small businesses with 15 to 20 staff all working under one roof, they have had to adapt their skills to encompass the world of social media, marketing, front of house, customer service, admin and packaging, as well as stock control and product sourcing.

How social media has changed the face of business

For many SMEs this means no two days are ever the same, and this is why all employees should now be trained to have capabilities across all aspects of the business rather than just one. Being social media savvy has become intrinsic to staff in every role simply because of the nature of how old-fashioned word-of-mouth has changed.

In these days of absolutely everything being snapped on a camera phone and shared on social media, even those staff who spend most of their time packing up orders for dispatch have to be really aware that their presentation – what goes into the box and how well it is packed – is of great importance. A lot of damage can be done to a company’s reputation if negative shots of poorly packed, wrapped or presented goods are circulated on Facebook or Instagram.

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Turning the negative to a positive

Having socially minded and socially aware staff can also lessen the impact of negative feedback if something should go wrong. Back in the good old days before social media, when you had a bad customer experience or you were not happy with your purchases, you maybe had a bit of a grumble about it to a couple of your friends and some of your family members, and that is pretty much as far as the negative comments went.

Social media has come along and changed all that for us, so now if someone has a bad experience – then everyone will hear about it, and so will their friends, and so will their friends……and on it goes. Negative feedback will happen at some point, so having staff onboard that can deal swiftly and tactfully with the issue can really help to turn a negative into a positive.

Even in the early days of social media, too many small business owners ignored negative feedback coming in from their social media accounts because they either simply didn’t know how to handle it, or they didn’t have the spare time or skilled staff to address it properly.

These days you ignore negative feedback at your own peril, but with the right approach to solving your customers issues, you can end up earning some respect for your swift action and understanding. For this reason many SMEs are recognising that the right staff for this role are those with the right skills and years of experience rather than a paper degree, but no real knowledge.