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SMEs to focus on workforce stability in 2024 amid ongoing economic pressures, barometer survey reveals

WORKFORCE STABILITY is the main focus for SMEs in 2024, despite ongoing economic pressures and an uncertain climate, according to the latest barometer from people experts HR Solutions.

The results of the fourth annual SME Business Survey from the HR specialists were revealed at the Your Business Expo business exhibition at Sywell Aerodrome yesterday (Wednesday).

More than half of respondents (54%) said their biggest business issue this year is recession and cost of living, with 47% citing recruitment as a problem and 39% worried about bringing in new business.

Yet less than a quarter of those surveyed plan to make any redundancies, instead putting an emphasis on efficient resource management.

And with half troubled by maintaining profitability and 56% are concerned about controlling costs, there is little surprise that 53% plan to focus on cost reduction in order to maintain workforce stability and make better use of resources.

Recruitment and employee retention were also revealed to be pressing issues, driven by competitive job markets and the expansion of the talent pool due to remote working. A worried 45% of SMEs are concerned about the need for wage adjustments in line with inflation, 52% believe employee retention is a key issue and 38% are concerned about talent attraction.

In response, SMEs are rightly prioritising employee engagement and HR Solutions recommends that business owners focus on creating an attractive workplace culture that values diversity, encourages open communication, and promotes work-life balance.

A strong company culture not only supports employee retention but also makes the organisation more attractive to potential employees.

Main picture: The question panel at the Your Business Expo seminar revealing the SME Business Survey results.

(from left) Wilson Browne’s Jennie Jahina, Qoob’s Matthew Rigby-White, Martin Lewis-Stevenson of Pulse Media Group with Greg Guilford, interviewer John Griff and Victoria Templeton of HR Solutions.

The fieldwork for the survey, which HR Solutions carried out with Your Business Expo organiser Pulse Group Media – publisher of Business Times, Northamptonshire’s business newspaper – county law firm Wilson Browne Solicitors and digital marketing agency Qoob took place at the end of 2023 and the company surveyed businesses that fall into the SME bracket across multiple industries, including manufacturing, aerospace and defence, agriculture, construction and engineering, education, electronics, healthcare, retail, professional services, hospitality, finance, energy, insurance, property, and pharmaceuticals.

Your Business Expo, which attracted around 100 exhibitors and hundreds of visitors to Sywell Aerodrome, hosted a seminar to digest and discuss the SME Business Survey results at a panel forum led by HR Solutions chief executive Greg Guilford, Pulse Group Media director Martin Lewis-Stevenson and Matthew Rigby-White, Qoob’s managing director. Also on the panel was Jennie Jahina, employment law partner at Wilson Browne Solicitors, and HR Solutions knowledge manager Victoria Templeton.

HR Solutions has already programmed a schedule of webinars to address the issues raised,” Mr Guilford said. “With our survey now in its fourth year, we can see a clear shift in the mindset of SMEs. Financial performance and securing new business will naturally remain at the forefront of owner-directors’ minds, but as we know with the cost-of-living crisis and fears of a recession, finances continue to be a top priority.”

HR Solutions will use the results of the survey to provide specific support, advice and resources for SME business owners to use to overcome these challenges, Mr Guilford added. “It is important that SMEs look inwards and ensure they have the right staff in place. They must also review internal processes to streamline and reduce inefficiencies,” he said.

“We would also implore that business owners look at the resources and seminars we have on offer for all the support they need in tackling these issues. Strategic planning and innovative thinking is the most effective way to increasing turnover this year.”

The full results of the survey are available to view now on the HR Solutions website.

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