A sizable contingent of UK SMEs are concerned about the impact of Brexit – but only a few have any plans in place to mitigate the worst effects.
According to freelance work site Upwork, 41% of British SMEs believe leaving the EU will be damaging for their business but only 11% have made plans to protect themselves.
The biggest cause for concern for UK SMEs is the challenge of attracting and retaining great talent: one-third of expect Brexit to make it harder to do that, and this number jumps to 56% for larger businesses with 50-250 employees.
So what are the key implications for a post-Brexit talent pool? Upwork says they are expected to be far reaching. More than half (51%) of concerned businesses expect to see slow profit growth; 40% are worried their workforce will be less productive and nearly one-third (32%) claim it will make it harder for them to compete with international businesses. Moreover, the talent shortage means 16% of all SMEs believe they are at risk of going out of business altogether.
‘Only 11% making plans’
Upwork’s research reveals that a small number that do have a plan anticipate spending on average more than £100,000 over the next two years to make up for the shortfall. Nearly one-third (28%) will spend these funds supplementing their workforce with freelance specialists from online platforms. Many SMEs also plan to train up existing staff (45%) and increase salaries for new employees (39%).
“There is already a well-documented skills gap in the UK, and our research suggests that leaving the EU will make it even harder for SMEs to find the talent they need to compete effectively,” said Upwork SVP, Rich Pearson. “Planning for the challenges ahead now by investing in alternative ways to source talent appears to be a winning strategy for SMEs.”