Agile thinking key to growth in East Anglia

Optimism is high among local businesses who are planning a recruitment drive this year, despite ongoing challenges.

Forty per cent of medium-sized companies say they intend to increase their workforce, and more than a quarter expect to return to pre-COVID-19 revenues within the next 12 months.

The survey, by business advisory firm BDO, called Rethinking the Economy says that growth ambitions will be supported by new hires, together with an adjustment in the price of products and services (40%). 

However, a shortage of workers and the rising costs of employment could hamper recovery. When asked about skills shortages, 30% of local businesses said that finding enough people with the right skill-set (particularly entry level workers) was one of their biggest concerns, and 17% said they would have to increase wages to attract and retain talent.

Two years on from Brexit, a third of businesses are also concerned about a shortage of overseas workers. This is leading to an increased focus on hiring UK-based employees, with one in five relying on a greater percentage of domestic workers this year.

Head of BDO in East Anglia Peter Harrup said: “There’s little doubt that businesses in the region are facing immense challenges when it comes to finding the right people to fill vacant roles. When you couple that with the rising cost of employment, and an impending increase in National Insurance contributions, then East Anglia companies could be forgiven for looking at alternative ways to achieve growth.

“While it’s extremely encouraging to see such optimism within the East Anglia business community, both in terms of the speed at which they expect revenues to return to pre-COVID levels and the confidence they have in the rewards of new hires.”

The Rethinking the Economy survey also found that East Anglia businesses will look at a variety of different ways to overcome the problem of staff shortages this year, with a third admitting that they’ve been able to hire from a more diverse pool of candidates as a result of the rise in remote working.

As such, one in six businesses said they plan to be more permanently agile in their working practices, including offering greater flexibility for people to work at home / remotely, and being less fixed around working hours. A third of regional companies intend to introduce a number of new perks in 2022, such as increasing salaries and new joiner bonuses to attract and retain staff.

Peter added: “As a result of the pandemic and other factors, such as Brexit and rising inflation, businesses are having to stretch their thinking when it comes to increasing and maintaining workforce numbers.

“The reality is that these factors will remain front and centre for businesses throughout 2022 and it’s vital for companies to continue to rethink recruitment and retention strategies to stay in line with an evolving landscape.”

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