Employers say hiring workers is a struggle despite layoffs

New research has exposed clear areas where small business owners feel fintech tools could drive improvements within their organisation.

Companies wanting to hire are still struggling to find new workers despite the cooling economy and growing numbers of layoffs.

While headlines have been dominated by big job cuts at companies including Microsoft and Ford, 60 per cent of Britain’s businesses are looking to recruit staff, according to the latest survey from the British Chambers of Commerce — broadly the same as at the end of last year.

Of those actively hiring, 80 per cent have reported difficulties as they try to add to their headcounts, just shy of the record 82 per cent that reported similar frustrations in December.

“People shortages are a massive issue and employers can see little sign of improvement,” Jane Gratton, head of people policy at the BCC, said. “The high number of unfilled job vacancies is damaging businesses and the economy. Firms are struggling to fulfil order books and turning down new work.”

She suggested “urgent reform” of the government’s shortage occupations list was needed to make it easier for companies to fill certain positions with overseas workers.

Companies in the hospitality and manufacturing sectors are struggling most, the organisation’s survey showed, with 83 per cent of respondents in those industries reporting hiring troubles. Engineering and construction roles are proving the next hardest to fill, with 81 per cent of those firms unable to find suitable workers. Almost 80 per cent of companies in the professional services, health and education sectors reported difficulties.

The lobby group said businesses were having trouble filling different types of roles. Most of the hospitality companies, for example, could not find unskilled workers, while construction firms reported difficulty hiring skilled manual labour.

“We are desperately short of semi-skilled and unskilled workers,” the boss of one small services company in Sussex said. “We could increase business by about 20 per cent if we could employ and that in turn would bolster the taxation into the government. We are turning away work as we are struggling to meet current requirements with the staff we have.”

The shortage of suitable candidates, especially in certain roles, has led to fierce competition among employers and has pushed wages higher in recent years.

More businesses are now worried about labour costs than they are by energy bills. The manufacturing sector is the most concerned about wage inflation, closely followed by construction and engineering, logistics and hospitality businesses. A big manufacturer in Northern Ireland said that filling vacancies was its “biggest challenge”.

One way around the recruitment difficulties would be to increase staff training, but the BCC said that investment in training remained “stubbornly low”.

About 25 per cent of those companies polled said they had increased their training plans over the past three months, while 14 per cent reported that they had cut back.

The business group suggested that companies were reluctant to commit more to training programmes as they try to keep their costs down with inflation still running high. However, an insurer in Somerset claimed it was struggling to hire more senior staff to train its younger workers.