Sponsor Spotlight: Benchmark

Benchmark was founded 11 years ago by childhood friends Louisa Harrison-Walker and Amy Tingle. Louisa worked at Office Angels for five years, where she was in the top 10 performing consultants for three years in a row, and Consultant of the Year in her final year, while Amy specialised in HR and Management. Like many of us, they took the start-up leap, giving up their salaries and re-mortgaging their homes in order to set up a recruitment agency that focused on people rather than placements.

Benchmark works extensively with digital businesses in Sheffield to attract and retain the best talent within Sheffield City Region. The business also operates at grassroots level to develop future talent; for the second year running Benchmark has sponsored Sheffield City Council’s Code>Make>Win awards, encouraging the young digital talent of Sheffield to be creative. In addition, Benchmark invests back into the digital community by hosting Code Clubs, providing guidance at Sheffield Hallam University and the UTC, and facilitating the CDI Café (an event focused on the employee lifecycle in Creative, Digital and IT businesses).

The company was recently commissioned to carry out research for the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority looking into ‘Hard to Fill Vacancies and Skills Shortages’; this has given them extensive knowledge around the issues the digital industry faces in recruiting specific skill sets. The research highlighted the need to develop talent within the city and attract people from outside the region.

Benchmark describe themselves as an ethical recruiter – we asked Louisa what this actually means:

“Ethical recruitment is focused on investing in relationships and supporting the local economy through local initiatives and community projects. Benchmark seeks to take responsibility in our role and utilise our voice in the business community by addressing issues such as skills shortages and education provision.

“In a recruitment capacity, ethical means acting in the interests of both parties to find lasting solutions to people’s career choices and assisting companies to grow and retain talent; not solely being driven by the fee.”

What does Benchmark do that’s different?

“For Benchmark, the recruitment market was crowded with faceless agencies who were only concerned with the profit margin and not the people they were placing. The Benchmark proposition is simple; invest in the applicants and employers to uncover what they truly want. We meet everyone face-to-face to ensure skills and culture requirements are matched appropriately and we also provide guidance to employers on the suitability of their recruitment processes versus the competencies they are looking to identify. We follow that up with advice on their induction process and, after six weeks in post, we visit new recruits to make sure the relationship has started successfully and any teething problems can be ironed out.”

What do you think are the biggest challenges for digital companies in Sheffield at the moment?

“For emerging digital companies, a significant barrier to growth and scale is both attracting and nurturing people with the right skills and attitude. Given that digital companies typically have a small nucleus of highly-talented founders, and early hires tend to be drawn from the existing network of friends and family, the next step of finding skilled workers that can apply their experience to the particular demands of the business can be difficult. Often, the nature of the work of digital companies, along with the fact that senior people within the business are heavily involved in the delivery of work, means that organisations can face a real challenge in investing the time, effort, and money required to develop employees and increase their output or quality of work.

“We are witnessing a surge of digital businesses and this is putting pressure on the demand for skills; at present we are seeing demand outstripping supply. It is vital the demand is met so companies can develop; this involves attracting talent to the region, informing education providers of the skills requirements and upskilling where possible.”