The second batch of findings from our latest survey of UK small businesses found that 35% of SMEs plan to grow their workforce by more than 10% over the next year.
The survey, which involved more than 250 SMEs, also found that an additional 58% expected their staff numbers to stay the same and only 7% were anticipating a reduction.
Planning on putting their workforce front and centre, 41% of SMEs have identified people and training as a key priority over the next 12 months. Finding new staff, however, is expected to be challenge for businesses, with 36% of SMEs highlighting this as a possible difficulty over the next year.
The issues of COVID and potential future lockdowns topped the list of worries for UK SMES, as 55% worry about the impact the virus may have in the future. Rising inflation came second in the list, with 34% of SMEs concerned about escalating costs.
John Rozenbroek, CFO/CCO at Capify said: “It’s positive to see UK SMEs putting their staff at the forefront of business strategy, with people and training coming as a top priority for the majority of businesses in our latest survey. People are truly a business’s greatest asset and it’s encouraging to see so many SMEs valuing this in their future plans with clear plans to expand their workforces.
“We know that the small business community is resilient and it’s promising to see that many are optimistic about the future, with investment and future growth important priorities.”
The figures on recruitment expectations are in stark contrast to the previous 12 months, with our survey finding that 24% of businesses had reduced their staff numbers during the pandemic.
The survey also highlighted the importance of government support during the pandemic, as around 64% of SMEs said they had accessed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). With furlough having ended on 30 September, however, analysts estimate that around 700,000 people may now lose their jobs, hours or earnings, so it remains to be seen how this will impact SMEs and the availability of labour across key sectors.
It is important to note, however, that although furlough has ended, there are other government schemes available to SMEs that support their growth and expansion post-COVID – for example, the Help to Grow scheme.
“With the end of furlough, rising inflation and the recent issues around energy prices, it’s no surprise that SMEs do have some concerns to keep in mind,” added John.
“It could be a challenging 12 months for SMEs in many sectors as margins become tighter – especially if increased overheads need to be managed alongside adding new staff.
“With future growth as a priority, SMEs must ensure strong cash flow in their business, no matter the industry. Alternative finance options have been instrumental in helping SMEs through this period and they will no doubt play a huge part in supporting growth goals for the future.”
If you’re an SME looking to expand your workforce, but struggling to find the necessary cash, use our eligibility checker to see if you’re eligible for a Capify small business loan