Another great Speakers’ Panel hosted by the HCfE at Henley Business School on 25 March 2015

1 April 2015

Another great Speakers’ Panel hosted by the HCfE at Henley Business School on 25 March 2015

Supported and sponsored by the Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub and Santander, the Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship staged the ‘Successfully Hiring and Developing Staff’ Speakers’ Panel at Henley Business School on Wednesday 25 March 2015.

The Speakers’ Panel focused on a hot topic that was recently revealed in the Financial Times report, Employment: Global Best Practice which, amongst other insights, highlighted the ways companies engage employees for improving business performance. Speakers from a mix of rapidly growing companies (that included LinkedIn) shared details of their hiring and employee development strategies and answered questions that ranged from ‘How can SMEs compete with the large organisations with respect to benefits, incentives and training?’ to ‘What are the key elements to get right when hiring for an SME?’. 

John Board, Dean of Henley Business School, welcomed delegates and highlighted how hiring the right person can make a substantial difference to an SME and that one single great hire can equal the value of many employees combined; alongside which he reminded the SME audience that Henley Business School is itself an SME with a growth ambition and thus having great faculty and staff is a key success factor.

David Bloxham, CEO of GCS Recruitment Services, opened proceedingswith his keynote speech during which he presented a four stage recruitment method for SMEs that described a process for hiring into a new position. This involves companies covering every base in a specific order, beginning with use of referrals and networks, engaging advertising and social media, employing an HR professional or an internal recruiter and finally, using an external recruiter. The method provided a valuable insight that was expanded upon by the presentations which followed.

James Corfield, Recruitment Lead UK & Ireland at Informatica, focused on the candidate experience and how candidates, like modern retail consumers, spend more time than ever before sourcing information about companies before engaging with them. He discussed how candidates increasingly source content from user generated sites such as Glassdoor and how this requires a new approach to engaging with talent. Also, he discussed how SMEs can help build their employee brand by creating effective and transparent recruitment processes which give candidates a great experience irrespective of whether they get the job or not.

Rowena Bourne, Services Operations Director at Ultima Business Solutions, which recently hired an internal recruiter, spoke passionately about treating employees like customers and stressed that it was important to have and practice an honest approach to recruitment and staff development. A recent winner of the Southern Tech 100 Award for Outstanding Training & Development, Ultima focused on what SMEs often overlook- in particular the encouragement of study and support with costs of courses and examinations.

Chris White, Senior Enterprise Account Executive at LinkedIn, spoke about how the best recruiters act as marketers in promoting the company to potential candidates and described a simple ‘build followers, engage them and recruit’ social media model emphasising that companies which post regular updates on LinkedIn get 40% more views to their LinkedIn job posts and 25% more ‘apply’ clicks.  

A live on-line poll of the audience revealed that for 54% of the SMEs in the audience the single biggest challenge was ‘attracting quality staff’. Almost two-thirds of SMEs also identified involvement of staff in developing operating plans and staging competitions and challenges as the main ways of engaging staff, which has been shown to correlate strongly with business performance.   

Some very positive feedback was received from SMEs attending the event:

‘A good opportunity to learn from others' and ' Great speakers, very honest and open, learnt a lot' Waters Creative Ltd

'Very informative and interesting event; the Q & A session was very well moderated and run' Tchibo Coffee International Ltd

'Great choice of speakers' Allembis Ltd

From the feedback received, delegates were unanimous in saying they would recommend the Speakers’ Panel to colleagues.

The Speakers’ Panel is the fourth in the series that addresses topics identified by the SME Forum held on 24 June 2014. The remaining Speakers’ Panel this year is ‘Sourcing Finance for Business Growth’ (11 May 2015).

The University of Reading is committed to working with the SME community in the Thames Valley Region for mutual benefit.




Jurek Sikorski

Business Development Lead & Executive in Residence, Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship

Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship

Henley Centre for Entrepreneurship is part of Henley Business School at the University of Reading which provides a hub for teaching and research in the subject, inspiring students from across the University to embrace, develop and apply their entrepreneurial abilities.


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Ed Cooper

Director, Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub

Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub The Growth Hub provides a single gateway for ambitious businesses who are seeking the information, guidance, support, expertise, finance, knowledge and experience they need to scale up and grow, boost performance and find new ways of working.



Cheryl Adams

Regional Corporate Director

Santander Bank UK

Santander Bank UK is the wholly owned subsidiary of the Santander Group, a Spanish bank providing full retail banking services.


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If you have any questions, please contact Jurek Sikorski by email at or by phone on +44 (0)118 378 8188.