SMEs across the world suffer from skills shortages

SMEs across the world are facing difficulties as a result of a lack of skilled labour, according to the latest report from Bibby Financial Services (BFS).

The annual Global Business Monitor report – which surveys SME owners and decision makers across Asia, Europe and North America – has revealed that skills shortages is the primary issue for businesses in 2017.

Almost half (49%) of those surveyed claimed that a skills shortage was the greatest challenge they faced, with figures rising to 73% in Germany and 71% in the Czech Republic.

Across industry sectors, wholesale SMEs were least likely to be affected by the issue (37%), while construction businesses were most likely to be impacted (63%).

Findings from the annual Global Business Monitor study

Richard Carter, CEO for BFS in Europe and Asia, said: “Many economies rely on the movement of labour to plug skills gaps, but evident shifts towards protectionist policies in recent times could see the flow of skills dry up.

“It’s clear that this is a key concern for many small- and medium-sized businesses across the world.”

In an effort to plug the gap, a number of SME owners are investing in staff training and development.

The report also found that staff training was the number one area of investment among SMEs in 2017 (59%), just ahead of technology and employee recruitment (50%).

Richard added: “Many business owners are addressing the issue by upskilling existing staff.

“While it is fantastic to see businesses investing in skills development, this isn’t a silver bullet.

“It can often take months or even years to train staff for highly skilled activity.

“In the meantime, there’s a very real threat that businesses will have to make do with existing capabilities, and this could impact output in the short term.”  

Other problems facing business in 2017 included rising costs (48%) and government regulation (44%), while almost a third (31%) claimed that cash flow was their largest concern.

The annual Global Business Monitor study surveys SME owners and decision makers in Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

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