Our smallest businesses (0-49 employees) make up 99.3% of the UK’s total business population.  They account for 36% of the UK’s turnover and serve an important role in the heart of communities.

However, many micro businesses face barriers in trying to access support and advice to improve the productivity and wellbeing of their workforce. They typically lack the formal HR resource structures of larger firms, and accessing available support is not always straightforward. This is often attributed to a people management “blind spot.”

This blind spot is not just limited to firms.  As an academic community, we undertake very little research or engagement in this area. Within policy and business organisations, external support mechanisms designed to improve HR practice often miss the mark due to a failure to recognise their specific operating context.

In December 2021, we held the first of a series of activities designed to advance this agenda.  At the half day workshop, The Silent Majority: A Deep Dive on People Management Support for Microbusinesses, we were joined by representatives from across policy, business and academia to kick off a conversation and ask the question – how can we design more inclusive and effective support structures for micro businesses to improve employee engagement and management practice?

Videos from the session and key takeaways can be viewed below.

Session 1: Understanding the Context

In the first video, Professors Monder Ram and Paul Edwards set the context for discussions by sharing what we know about the microbusiness support landscape.

Session 2: Understanding the Challenges

In the second session, Professor Graeme Roy chairs a panel discussion offering a range of perspectives on the challenges and barriers preventing microbusinesses from accessing the support they need.  The expert panel include Emelia Quist, Head of Policy Research at the Federation of Small Businesses; Professor Carol Atkinson, Professor of Human Resource Management at Manchester Metropolitan University; Alex Till, Chief Executive of Menta and Jonny Gifford, Senior Advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Session 3: Microbusiness Support in Action

In our third session, Professors Patricia Findlay and Monder Ram ask the question – what does people management support for microbusinesses looks like when it works?  They are joined by Ammo Talwar, CEO of Punch Records; Daniel Alexander of Daniel Alexander Films and Ammar Mirza, Founder of Asian Business Connexions, all microbusiness entrepreneurs, who are working to revolutionise approaches to microbusiness support to make it more innovative, sensitive, collaborative and inclusive.

Key Takeaways

Key takeaways from the session and next steps can be viewed below.

For more from the PrOPEL Hub team on this important issues, head to:

Towards a more inclusive human resource community. Ram et al. HRMJ Paper. DOI: 10.1111/1748-8583.12416

Voices from the Microbusiness Community – A series of blogs featuring contributions from academics, practitioners and policy-makers offering fresh perspectives on engaging collaboratively with overlooked or disregarded business communities and promoting diversity and enterprise.