Harnessing UK Workforce Potential: Overcoming Hiring and Growth Hurdles for Future Success

by | Jun 11, 2024

In the dynamic landscape of UK businesses, a pressing issue has emerged: the challenge of effectively harnessing the full potential of the workforce. This revelation is highlighted in the 2024 Kelly Global Re:work Report, a comprehensive survey conducted by Kelly, a respected provider of specialty talent solutions. Covering 13 countries, the report illuminates significant hurdles in recruitment and workforce planning, particularly within the UK.

The survey presents a concerning picture: only 29% of UK executives express confidence in their ability to recruit talent with specialized or highly sought-after skills. This stands in stark contrast to countries like Germany, where 67% of executives feel assured in their recruitment capabilities. The implications of this shortfall are significant—43% of UK executives admit to missing business opportunities due to talent shortages. Adelle Harrington, Vice President, EMEA, at KellyOCG, emphasizes the gravity of these findings, describing them as “eye-opening” and stressing the urgent need for UK businesses to adopt long-term workforce strategies. These strategies should integrate both permanent and contingent workers, focus on effective skills development, and enhance employee engagement. Harrington warns that without a strategic approach to workforce planning, businesses risk falling behind in a competitive global market.

The report delves into the sentiments of the workforce itself, revealing that 29% of UK employees identify a lack of skills development as a major frustration, while 25% cite limited career progression opportunities. These dissatisfaction points are far from trivial—they contribute significantly to high employee turnover rates. Indeed, 32% of UK executives acknowledge that insufficient development opportunities are a primary reason for this churn. However, amidst these challenges, there are glimmers of hope. UK businesses are increasingly prioritizing employee wellbeing, with 35% of executives marking it as a top priority. This focus is not merely superficial; 55% of executives report providing more wellbeing support than they did a year ago. Such initiatives are critical for fostering a resilient and engaged workforce.

Furthermore, UK businesses are making strides in diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. A robust 63% of executives express confidence in their ability to improve these areas. Additionally, UK companies are among the least likely to mandate onsite work, with only 43% enforcing such policies. This flexibility facilitates hybrid work arrangements, which are increasingly valued by employees. The Kelly Global Re:work Report introduces a Workforce Resilience Index, which highlights how top-performing companies build agile, capable, and inclusive teams. According to the index, the UK ranks sixth among the 13 countries surveyed, with Norway, Sweden, and Germany leading the pack. This ranking provides a benchmark and a roadmap for UK businesses aspiring to improve their workforce strategies.

Resilience Leaders, as identified in the report, showcase several notable traits: 70% report increased revenue over the past year, 61% report improved profitability, 74% report enhanced customer satisfaction, 79% report an improved ability to recruit talent, and 72% report better retention rates. The report highlights four best practices that Resilience Leaders employ to build workforce resilience. First, an impressive 71% of Resilience Leaders collaborate with third parties to develop their talent strategies, compared to just 35% of Laggards. This partnership allows businesses to tap into specialized expertise and resources that they might not possess in-house. Second, 64% of Resilience Leaders have a clear strategy for deploying AI to support human work, and 69% use technology to enhance workforce analytics, monitor productivity, and support hybrid work arrangements. Embracing technological advancements can streamline operations and optimize workforce management.

Third, a significant 77% of Resilience Leaders have a C-suite leader with DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) responsibilities, compared to only 5% of Laggards. Moreover, 53% offer flexible and hybrid work arrangements at all levels. These practices ensure a variety of perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and inclusivity. Lastly, 54% of Resilience Leaders provide mental health resources, compared to 28% of Laggards. Prioritizing mental health and wellbeing is crucial for maintaining a motivated and productive workforce. The survey’s scope is broad, encompassing 1,500 senior executives and 4,000 workers across 13 countries and eight industry sectors. These countries include the United States, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Singapore. The industry sectors covered range from consumer retail and education to energy, engineering, financial services, life sciences, manufacturing, and technology.

The findings from the 2024 Kelly Global Re:work Report underscore the significant challenges faced by UK businesses in terms of recruitment and workforce development. The low confidence among UK executives in recruiting specialized talent and the high levels of employee frustration due to insufficient skills development and career progression opportunities are alarming. These issues are not merely barriers to growth but also indicators of deeper systemic problems within the UK’s talent management strategies. The contrast between the UK and countries like Germany, which shows much higher confidence in recruiting specialized talent, suggests that there are best practices and strategies that the UK could adopt. The emphasis on employee wellbeing and flexible work arrangements indicates a growing recognition of the need for a holistic approach to workforce management, which could be pivotal in addressing these challenges.

Looking to the future, the focus for UK businesses will likely shift towards adopting the best practices identified in the Workforce Resilience Index. Partnering with workforce solutions providers, leveraging new technologies, and fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging will be crucial. Furthermore, with the increasing importance of mental health and wellbeing, businesses that proactively offer these resources are likely to see improved employee engagement and retention. The trend towards flexible and hybrid work arrangements is expected to continue, driven by both employee preferences and the need for businesses to remain agile in a rapidly changing market. As UK businesses navigate these challenges, the insights from the Kelly Global Re:work Report provide a valuable roadmap for building more resilient, capable, and inclusive teams. The future of work in the UK will depend on how well businesses can adapt to these insights and implement strategies that unlock the full potential of their workforce. By addressing these challenges head-on and adopting a strategic approach, UK businesses can position themselves for sustainable growth and success in the global market.