Growing Business Awards: recruitment and talent management top list of challenges

Nearly half of the finalists in the 2022 Growing Business Awards have cited recruitment and the management of existing talent as the greatest challenge facing their business over the coming 12 months - far exceeding other concerns including rising costs, macroeconomic turmoil and scaling-up challenges.

Participants in this year’s Growing Business Awards are feeling incredibly bullish, even as the macroeconomic climate is taking a turn for the worse: 99% are confident regarding their trading prospects over the coming 12 months, with more than two thirds (70%) being “extremely confident”.

With more than 70% of the entrants having grown by over 30% between 2020 and 2021, and almost a third (32%) having doubled their revenues during that period, this optimism is rooted in the fact that this cohort of outstanding UK businesses has outperformed even in the midst of unprecedented upheaval.

Nonetheless, they are still very aware that the road to continued success remains challenging - albeit in a different way compared to the bulk of UK SMEs. Focusing on the responses provided by the 116 companies that were selected for the awards’ shortlist in late July, Growing Business Intelligence found that while macroeconomic concerns were cited as the main obstacle to growth in the coming 12 months by almost one in five finalists (18%), this came significantly behind difficulties in attracting and retaining talent, which was put forward as the number one challenge by almost half (47.5%) of the finalists.

“Our biggest barrier to growth is the highly competitive nature of the UK labour market, as the UK workforce adjusts to post-pandemic opportunities and the high demand for skilled and affordable available talent,” said one finalist. “At present, our biggest barrier to continued growth is resourcing - as we grow rapidly, we are finding skilled labour the hardest role to fill, which is dictating the speed at which we can grow,” said another.

This challenge is particularly acute given the scale at which 2022 finalists are looking to expand their businesses: as reported, the finalists intend to create an estimated 7,920 jobs over the coming 12 months, having already created 8,807 roles and thus nearly doubled their staff count over the 2019-2021 period.

source: Growing Business Intelligence
source: Growing Business Intelligence

The second most pressing issue is closely correlated to the above: one in four respondents (25%) cited the difficulties arising from rapidly scaling up a successful business as their main concern for the coming year. “We are expanding so fast that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up with the pace. Rapid growth creates a high workload as we constantly develop,” said one finalist. The tension between growth and maintaining high standards of quality and service was highlighted by another participant: “One of our biggest barriers to continued growth is sustainability and to ensure that we remain a profitable business while delivering the same high level of service, even as our teams, number of offices and overall workload increases.”

Other challenges were comparatively less prominent, including sector-specific difficulties (cited by just over one in 10 finalists), standing out from the competition (9.5%), overcoming a lack of awareness in the market (8.5%), and rising costs (7.7%). Difficulties in securing financing seem to be few and far between as they were mentioned as a top concern by only 5% of respondents - perhaps unsurprisingly given that the finalists are overwhelmingly profitable and have grown by 60% year-on-year on average.