5 reviews
16:04 13 Mar 23
Highly recommended! Josh and Sarah have been fantastic at Astute. They've found and placed me in 2 jobs now between them, both really responsive and excellent at keeping you up to speed with things. Very knowledgable about the roles and happy to talk to companies with any queries you have.
C R.C R.
10:45 27 Jan 23
Great agency one of the best ones I've worked with! Liz has been a great help and support in helping me towards a new direction in my career life. She is very attentive and keeps me in the loop at all times! She makes the extra effort to work with my preferred requirements for work and even if it isn't completely attainable she meets me in the middle and does as much as she can to help! Also Liz is very funny might I add 😂 and I'm happy that I can now put a face to the name after all these years! Thank you again Liz for all your help and support! 😊
10:32 20 Dec 22
Josh and the Astute team was very swift to help me to find roles that matched my profile. They are really reliable and will help through every step of the recruitment process going out of their way to assist and follow up when needed. Could not find a better recruitment agency!
Helen PinegarHelen Pinegar
16:19 18 Dec 22
Fantastic recruitment agency.. Josh was extremely enthusiastic, encouraging and clearly knowledgeable about what was needed from both the employee and the employers point of view. Extremely supportive especially in regards to interview preparation and endeavoured to procure feedback promptly. Wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Astute in the future to both candidates and recruiting businesses particularly for the right fit for the role!!!
Lisa LeighLisa Leigh
11:56 30 Nov 22
I have worked as a candidate for Astute and they have been excellent. Super friendly service and professional agents keen to fit the right person to the right job. It has been a pleasure dealing with them and I would happily work for them again in the future. Highly recommend this agency.
Contact us
Suite 1, Ground Floor West,Cardinal Square,10 Nottingham Road,Derby. DE1 3QT
Stanford House,19 Castle Gate, Nottingham, NG1 7AQ

Managing Director Sarah Stevenson at Astute Recruitment has been shortlisted for another prestigious business award by the East Midlands Chamber!

Sarah has been named as a finalist for the East Midlands Chamber 2017 Business Awards under the category of Business Woman of the Year for her work establishing and continuing to grow Astute Recruitment.

After facing redundancy, Sarah and Mary Maguire set up Astute Recruitment in 2009 with nearly 20 years’ experience in recruitment each. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength, growing to a team of nine across two offices in Derby and Nottingham.

Co Owner of Astute, Mary Maguire, said: “Sarah and I have become great business partners and friends, and it’s been amazing to work alongside her as we continue to grow our business.

“Right from the outset, Sarah’s dedication to Astute and the team has been infectious. She has worked hard to create a workplace culture that makes Astute a great place to work – from introducing flexible working to initiating a new bonus scheme for staff to helping team members map out personal development plans.

“Sarah has also been vital in helping Astute develop its brand, working with our non-executive director to establish our new logo, plus a total re-haul of our website and social media presence.

“We are delighted that she has been recognised through these awards and the whole team has their fingers crossed ahead of the big night!”

Sarah said: “I’m honored to have been shortlisted. Setting up Astute has been a real step out of my comfort zone, both personally and professionally but it has been a fantastic journey so far.

“Being Managing Director of your own business is a challenge, but I’m proud of the team we’ve built and excited for what the future holds for Astute.”

The judging day for finalists took place 17 July at the East Midlands Chamber’s Chesterfield offices and since then Sarah has been announced as one of 5 finalists for the awards evening on Friday 8th September. The awards evening is being held at Derbyshire Cricket Club’s 3aaa County Ground. All of the team here are looking forward to the night and will be keeping our fingers crossed for Sarah!

How to inspire potential new hires to work in your team
How to inspire potential new hires to work for your team

Employee Benefits & Initiatives – ‘Creating Desire in your Hires and existing team’

We asked several HR Managers, CFO’s and Financial Directors, if they would be interested in us providing guidance and advice around employee benefits and staff initiatives.

The aim?

To improve candidate attraction throughout the hiring process and also to appeal to existing valued staff.

We thought we would share this information as the feedback has been so positive…..

We now have a deeply competitive job market – not just in Derbyshire but across the East Midlands and beyond.

Employee benefits and initiatives have become increasingly important to employers looking to attract top local talented professionals and for employees as part of their decision making process when choosing whether to accept a job or not. Increasingly people looking for a new job are not just thinking of the basic salary but the overall package a future employer can offer that fit in with their own life, family and commitments. Employee Benefits have also become a key issue  in terms of improving staff retention for employers.

This is particularly important when employers are either seeking to retain specific, valued, sector trained staff across disciplines including accountancy, marketing, engineering etc. and to attract those with key talents into their business and not into the arms of one of their competitors!


The important key trends in benefit provision for employees are now focussed on: –

  • Flexible working
  • Pensions
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Flexible Benefits Package
  • Staff Discounts
  • Childcare Vouchers
  • Wellness at work – including employer’s attitudes to mental health and environmental factors
  • Staff incentives/ initiatives


Flexible working  –   If companies can offer core hours of working with the employee able to gear the extra hours to make up the full working week either before the core hours or after are particularly popular. For instance, staff being able to work 7-4, 8-5, 9-6.

Pensions  –  While changes to UK Pension policy for businesses and business owners through auto-enrolment have been established, many companies just offer the standard minimum allowances.  If a business can offer a tiered scheme according to seniority of position and longevity of service to their staff this is a real consideration in the employee market place for staff looking for a new role and for those deciding whether to stay with their existing employer.

Holiday Entitlement  –  The norm is now 25 days plus Annual Statutory Bank Holidays with an increasing amount of companies offering up to 30 days tiered according to longevity of service of staff and seniority of position.

Flexible Benefits Package  –  Whereby an employee is given a ‘benefit pot’ worth a certain amount of money whereby additional holidays can be purchased at the expense of one of the other benefits to suit that person’s individual circumstances.

Staff Discounts  –  Whereby the business is able to offer discounts on their own products or services to staff (e.g. several major East Midlands retailers offer significant staff discounts off the standard retail price of their products!). Alternatively companies can use the services of businesses specifically able to provide employee discounts from leisure/ retail outlets.

Childcare vouchers  –  For any employees with families this is a really big consideration and if employers are able to offer this – particularly to staff with very young children this is a major consideration for staff looking for work and also those currently employed.

Wellness at work  –  If companies/ employers are able to demonstrate their ability to recognise, reward and genuinely value their hardworking staff through awards, personal development plans, financial support with professional training costs – all of these count enormously. Along-side these are demonstration of softer benefits such as provision of a clean, friendly and safe environment for staff to work. Many businesses include staff areas where staff can have their lunch, rest and relax. Some businesses have games facilities for instance. Mental health at work for employees is also increasingly important. Have a policy on how to support your staff if they should have any mental health worries or concerns and promote this! Sometimes it is just having an empathetic but responsible ear in the business environment who staff know they can turn to confidentially which can make all the difference.

A working example of the staff benefits currently offered to a major overseas Parent company with wholly owned UK Subsidiaries / SME hubs in the East Midlands is included below: –

  • 25 days’ holiday plus statutory bank holidays
  • Subsidised canteen
  • Standard 35 hour working week* Extra hours need to be worked during busy periods
  • Flexible working (depending grade of role and the department – i.e. certain staff have to provide office cover between 8.30- 9. 30. For management graded roles – (i.e. usually for  fully qualified accountants) – there would normally be flexible working with the core hours between 10am-4pm. In certain finance departments most staff work 9-5 but they would still have to have the cover in the department for the 30 minutes each side of that on a rota basis.
  • Company Pension Scheme (employer contributions tiered from 5% to 7% depending on the seniority of the employee) – staff can match these contributions up to 1% below the employer’s contributions. Defined benefit schemes are popular in this regard but increasingly rare. If your business can offer a pension scheme above the statutory minimum you will really stand out.
  • Company bonus scheme (awarded according to the company’s performance and the employee’s achievement of KPIs). For more senior staff, bonus is a higher percentage (say 10% of salary) with their personal KPI’s / performance making up to 50% of the overall bonus awarded as they are likely to contribute more to the business’ profitability on a per capita basis.
  • Staff discounts on own brands (where applicable) or offering other retailer discounts/ gym membership etc.
  • Car Allowances – for Financial Controller/ Finance Director and management positions in general – car allowances are increasingly favoured by potential employees as part of the overall benefits package – particularly as they would receive any car allowance on a monthly basis in addition to their salary. Typically car allowance schemes are between £5,000 – £8,000 per annum with Executive / Director positions usually offering £10,000 – £12,000 per annum.
  • Ability to purchase extra benefits: Some employers will have a scheme in place whereby staff are able to purchase additional holidays up to one week’s worth. Alternatively on a salary sacrifice basis they would be able to purchase additional pension or other benefits to suit their specific needs.
  • Free Car parking
  • For finance staff,  the 6-week period after year-end can mean accounts staff are expected to work significant extra hours to help while the post year-end audit work is completed and statutory filings / shareholder information is processed and published. After that period, it is acknowledged that if there are any significant extra hours required, then time off in lieu can be issued at the line managers discretion.


For many SME businesses, not all or even most of the core key benefits will be practical. If an employer can incorporate just some of these to their existing benefits package, it is proven to be a valuable consideration to existing staff assessing their future with their employer and for employers looking to attract the best local talent available.


Alternatively – what initiatives can your SME business offer to staff that won’t impact on the day to day but increase productivity, performance and profits?

Some initiatives needn’t cost a lot of money AND can be tailored to your own SME business where some of the above more ‘corporate’ benefits would not be possible.

The key is demonstrating and promoting to your team and to new potential staff, that they matter and harnessing that team spirit.

At Astute we have our Reward Board – envelopes with numbers pinned to a board! The numbers correspond to certain tasks individuals need to achieve – be it a testimonial, client visit or placement. Once one of the team has achieved the ‘task’ they choose one of the numbered envelopes and write their name on that envelope. Once all the envelopes are ‘claimed’ we have an opening ceremony. The team are allocated their envelopes and open them. Prizes include starting later, retail discounts, early finish on a Friday and more!

We are also very careful to ensure that the ‘tasks’ are for everyone so our brilliant admin team can also take part and have their own ‘goals’ to achieve. If you are going to have a team scheme like the Reward Board – you need to ensure that EVERYONE is included and can take part!

So, inspire desire in YOUR business for potential hires and existing staff by thinking about how you can add value to your benefits scheme and team initiatives.

Your future and existing staff will thank you!

Inspired by watching  the men’s 100 metre final in the world championships.  It was fascinating  to observe how Justin Gatlin won the race but the real winner was Usain Bolt. Undefeated in the last 4 years and holder of 3 world records, and 19 Olympic and World Championship gold medals, Bolt has owned athletics for the last 10 years. Last night Bolt came 3rd. The crowd made their winner known by booing Justin with all the TV cameras trained on Bolt. An electric moment…. This made me think.

Justin Gatlin, for those not guilty of watching men’s 100 metre races, was disgracefully suspended from the athletics arena not once but twice for failing drugs tests.

Usain Bolt.  The people’s champion of Jamaica with a hairs breadth escape of the wrong tracks in society, successfully crafted through grit, determination and perhaps most important of all .. the rare gift of charisma .. to enchant the general populous.

The collegiate US All-star against the people’s champion. Who won? This is why  I’m writing this. Not the winner of the race – Justin Gatlin. The true winner was Bolt.


Because he personifies grace, honesty, good humour and sheer hard graft in equal measure to show that anyone can be a world champion or at least be the best they can be without guile. Without dishonesty. Without cheating.

Not all of us can be a world champion. BUT what if each and every one of us just tried to be the very best version of who we can be? That’s the mark of a true winner and how each of us can be truly great.

Astute's latest Business Breakfast With Neale Lewis at Pride Park Stadium
Astute’s latest Business Breakfast With Neale Lewis at Pride Park Stadium


What an amazing Friday morning we had at Pride Park Stadium with Neale Lewis. His presentation on how to scale up your business for financial success went brilliantly! We were able to capture some great snippets on video of Neale too and you can watch these HERE! Over 50 businessmen and women across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire came and enjoyed a powerful workshop.

Some key takeaways:  –  PEOPLE  –  STRATEGY  –  EXECUTION  –  CASH

PEOPLE  –  Get your recruitment strategy right:  –

  • Put a proper consistent process in place. Of your existing staff – work out who are your ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘c’ performers? Be brave and honest enough to let someone go if they are not right as its your ‘c’ players who will frustrate and ultimately cause your ‘a’ players to leave!
  • The phrase ‘slow to hire, quick to fire’ is really important! Don’t hang onto the wrong people for any longer than you have to.
  • Be thorough!! Have rigor in checking the past performance of your ‘potential’ staff and have the processes in place to make this happen – every time!
  • Have regular performance or ‘talent’ reviews
  • Have a strategy how to hand onto your ‘a’ players?

STRATEGY  –  Be different to your competitors:  –

  • Have a strategy to monitor what they are doing. What can you learn from them? Do’s and don’ts!
  • Understand the core values that make your business different and stand out from the crowd
  • What trends are happening in your market space?
  • How can you take advantage of these?

EXECUTION  –  Make your plans happen:  –

  • Have a 5 year plan – have a clear goal of what you want to achieve for your business and YOU personally!
  • Put in place processes to monitor your progress against your plans
  • Have 90 day plans and make sure all your team have their own plans to achieve their targets
  • What are the ‘rocks’ in your business? What are the priorities that HAVE to happen in your business in the next 90 days?
  • Surround yourself with people better than you – seek a professional Coach / Mentor / NED to steer you and keep you focussed

CASH  –  Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity:  –

  • Always remember that cash is king in business
  • Know what your cash to conversion cycle is – how much money does it take through overheads to achieve profit?
  • The power of 1% – if you could generate just 1% extra performance, 1% extra sales volumes – how much extra profit could that mean? Small steps = big changes in your financial bottom line.
  • Recognise the importance of truly understanding the numbers and true meaning of your balance sheet and what it is telling you – week in week out, month in month out!


  • Visualise your company’s performance – have a visual representation for your aims and where you are to date in achieving them – for you and your team!
  • Set yourself, your team and your business a ‘hairy, audacious goal’. Dare to dream.
  • Have processes in place to track performance at all levels, all the way, ALL THE TIME!
  • Consistency is everything. Once you have processes in place they have to happen consistently to make an impact!

Thanks again to everyone who came, our team at Astute and of course the staff at Pride Park who made everyone very welcome and provided a much needed breakfast! A special thank you goes to Craig Barker of Koobr for his video testimonial about his thoughts on the morning! You can watch that HERE.