82 per cent of SMEs are struggling to recruit top talent, survey finds

The vast majority (82 per cent) of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are struggling to recruit the right talent they need to help their business grow, a new study reveals.

According to the research, which was carried out by specialist recruitment agency Robert Half, around four in five SMEs are finding it difficult to attract workers who have the skills they need, while 43 per cent are being forced to offer higher salary levels in order to compete for the best job candidates.

The group’s Robert Half 2019 Salary Guide estimates that some five million SMEs are facing this problem at a time when digitalisation is changing the shape of the UK’s business landscape and SMEs need tech-savvy staff who can adapt easily to constant workplace change.

More than half (53 per cent) of SME owners and decision-makers quizzed by the survey said they were finding it difficult to find and secure digitally-literate and forward-thinking staff with skills in complex areas such as data analytics.

The research also found that many SMEs are ‘lagging behind’ their larger competitors, as they are struggling to match the levels of training support offered by bigger firms.

The survey’s authors said that this problem had created a “buyer’s market” for in-demand workers possessing sought-after skills. They also pointed out that around seven in ten SMEs felt that they were paying existing talent too much in an effort to retain their top staff.

Matt Weston, Managing Director at Robert Half UK, said: “Technology and digitalisation are rapidly changing the UK business landscape. This, coupled with uncertainty around Brexit, means that businesses must adapt their recruitment strategies to ensure they are equipped with the right talent to keep up.

“Attracting, securing and retaining the right talent will rely on faster hiring times, flexible recruitment strategies and competitive remuneration packages.”