Sak Awan Director of Employability and Skills, S Knights Recuitment

Employers and employer engagement has always been a key theme running through the Employability and Skills agenda.

From Apprenticeships (both levy and non-Levy) traineeships, sector based work academies to DWP contracts like the work and health programme to the ESF; SSU and SSW contract, strong employer links have proven to provide a strong back bone to the successful delivery of most if not all contracts. 

The purpose of this article isn’t to comment on the best employer engagement strategies or top tips of sales; but instead to re-evaluate, realign and re-recognise your actual USPs.

The key question to help you on this journey is: “Do employers engage with us for the reasons we THINK they do?” 

When speaking to a number of Training Providers and Colleges across the UK, I asked “Why do you think your Employers work with you?” I’ve listed the top 5 responses below. All valid and great reasons, but I wonder how many of these are USP’s to a particular training company? I wonder how many organisations say this? and more importantly I wonder if this is the actual reasons employers work with them?

  1. We are an established Training Provider / College running for X years
  2. Our primary focus is quality training for learners that fit your business needs
  3. We offer free training
  4. We have a “XYZ” Ofsted grade
  5. Our learning platform is second to non

In a competitive marketplace, where a lot of the qualifications delivered to employers and individuals are standardised, differentiation is key. Understanding how you won the business and more importantly why, is imperative in defining your actual USP’s.

Case Study – We actually tried it ourselves and this is what we found…

As a sector specialise recruitment agency, S Knights recruitment recruits staff for Colleges and Training Companies.  A big part of our role is to engage with colleges and training providers, identify their staffing vacancies and in turn fill them. At the end of 2018, as part of our annual review, we decided to ask a number of our clients why they decided to work with S Knights Recruitment? Why did they pay us agency fees to find them the best staff? And why didn’t they go to one of our competitors?

This is where it gets interesting. We started by making a list of why we thought our clients used us and then compared it to the feedback as to why they actually did...

Why we THOUGHT they used us:

  1. We’re sector specialists 
  2. We operate on a national basis
  3. We offer a 12 month guarantee on placements 
  4. We offer temp, perm, exec, interim and freelance staff 
  5. Our presence and footprint in the sector as a leading Employability and skills agency 

Why our clients ACTUALLY use us:

  1. The time we took to take briefs, understand their business and needs and the questions we asked when taking a brief demonstrated that understanding
  2. The fact we don’t bombard them with CVs  and that we actually only submit suitable candidates favouring quality over quantity
  3. The relationships we’ve built over time and the fact many of them have experienced our services in the past as candidates and were impressed or had had heard good things and were referred to us
  4. that we offer a 12 month rebate which demonstrated quality and commitment as opposed to just sales people chasing a fee
  5. that we’re sector specialists and understand the industry 

What this meant for us, the reality was a lot of our perceived USP’s weren’t actually the reason our clients worked with us, in fact only 40% of our perceived USP’s were the reasons they engaged. 60% our actual USP’s actually in itself mapped the blue print of business. It clearly showed us what made us different, what made us successful and what gave us the edge in a very competitive market. In turn in 2019 we’re changing our employer engagement strategy. 

Employer engagement and business development is a tricky task at the best of times and unfortunately there’s no quick fix, no 1 size fits all and no fixed formula. But, whilst navigating through these tricky terrains finding out why you’ve done so well thus far is paramount and then …there’s your blueprint.

Good luck to all the amazing Employability and Skills providers out there who work relentlessly to help change the lives of so many people. I’d love to hear how you’re getting on

Sak Awan, Director of Employability and Skills, S Knights Recruitment

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