Finding the right talent is number one issue for business leaders

A shortage of talent is the top concern for businesses, followed by growing revenues and maximising profitability, finds a study.

Finding the right talent is the number one issue for 19 per cent of leaders, making it the joint-top issue overall along with increasing turnover, according to a survey by Clarus Consulting.

Mark Croft, managing partner at the company says, ‘Our research shows that skills shortages are a reality for many businesses and apply across the board, from major FTSE giants down to small and medium-sized firms.

‘Quite simply, they are finding it hard to get the people with the skills that they need. Building the right talent capability in order to take advantage of better economic conditions is a key priority for businesses.’

Clarus’ research highlights that UK business is focused on the fundamentals. Taken together, the four core ‘traditional’ issues of increasing turnover, finding the right talent, improving performance and increasing profitability are the top issues for 79 per cent of respondents.

Meanwhile, digital channels and the threat posed by online competition were named as a top three challenge by just 9 per cent of business leaders.

Those that are most concerned are financial services firms which see a need to adapt their business models and balance that with the increasing complexity of market regulation.

‘It seems that digital channels are not a top issue for most UK leaders right now,’ Croft says. ‘This seems surprising, but is a reflection perhaps of the extent to which businesses want to focus on the fundamentals of performance while the going is good.

‘Maybe digital is just over-hyped; maybe business leaders are still under-estimating it. Either way, it is not making it onto their top list of concerns at the moment. They are more concerned with the tangibles, the ‘bricks and mortar’ of the business, than its virtual footprint.’

The threat of Brexit

The survey also finds that the prospect of a referendum on leaving Europe does not overly concern business leaders, with only 8 per cent of respondents saying that Brexit would have a severely negative impact on their business, through a loss of sales revenue or making access to European funding more difficult.

Nearly half (46 per cent) say the effects would be somewhat negative but something that they could adjust to and compensate for through generating business elsewhere; while nearly a third (32 per cent) think that it would have no impact.

Concern about Brexit may grow as any referendum draws nearer, but for now business leaders are not worrying about it.

The same is true for other macro-economic issues such as interest rates or the oil price, which didn’t register as top concerns either.

Overall, confidence among leaders that they could deal with their top challenges is low, with less than one in five (19 per cent) feeling ‘very confident’ that they could successfully overcome them.

Croft says, ‘UK business leaders are focused on the here and now. They want to make performance and productivity gains while they can.

‘In our experience, the biggest challenge that most companies face is actually implementing their strategic plans, and making them deliver sustainable and measurable benefits. The ability to do this is what separates success from failure.’

Further reading on skills shortages

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.