A report by recruiting firm Robert Half has revealed that 82% of SMEs are struggling to find employees with the skills they require and are being forced to offer higher wages because of it.

Digital skills still lackingSMEs Struggling to Find Talent

Despite the increasingly technological way in which we live and work, the Robert Half 2019 Salary Guide found that 53% of CEOs can’t recruit candidates with the right skills to help them navigate the increasingly digitalised work and business world.

Skills such as data analysis, as well as softer skills such as resilience, adaptability to change and critical thinking, seem to be in short supply and the report found that this widespread shortage of specialist skills has created a ‘buyer’s market’ for those candidates who possess them.

This in turn is forcing many businesses to increase the amount they are investing in recruitment. 43% SMEs say they have had to offer higher salaries in the last three years to secure the best quality candidates, and 35% of larger businesses admitted they have had to do this too. Seven out of 10 businesses are paying more than they initially planned to secure their favoured candidate.

Matt Weston, UK managing director at Robert Half, said that both the rise in technology and the uncertainty round Brexit means businesses must be prepared to adapt their recruitment strategies to secure the right talent.

“However, the skills desired within certain roles remain specialist and unobtainable without presenting a competitive offer,” he warned.

“The skills required are changing at faster pace than their adoption among the mainstream UK workforce, creating a ‘buyer’s market’ for those who possess them. Attracting, securing and retaining the right talent will rely on faster hiring times, flexible recruitment strategies and competitive remuneration packages.”

Attracting the right talent

Another way to attract talent without necessarily driving up salaries is to offer other benefits. 76% of employers said their staff would leave if they were unable to provide them with training. However, SMEs lag behind large companies in the training they currently offer staff (52% versus 68%), risking talented staff going elsewhere.

Many SMEs are investing in softer benefits to increase retention levels: 39% currently have an employee wellbeing programme in place, while 34% offer flexible and remote working. Mark Weston says this is an area where SMEs are more able to compete with larger employers.

“SMEs have an opportunity to show employees they are valued members of the workplace.”

“While salary will always be an important factor, offering people ways to work happy will be vital in the war for talent.”

Has your small business struggled to recruit candidates with the skills it needs? How do you try to attract talent? Share your experiences and ideas.