Gap year: SMEs estimate filling the skills gap will cost £160k in next 12 months

UK SMEs will spend £160,000 to fill the skills gap in their organisation in the next 12 months.

  • UK SMEs estimate they will spend £160,000 to fill their skills gap in the next 12 months
  • Two thirds (67%) plan to invest in training and development, followed by permanent (44%) and temporary hires (31%)
  • UK SMEs are especially concerned about addressing the skills gap created by digital transformation

6 November, London – The average small and medium-sized business (SME) in the UK estimates that it will spend £160,000 to fill the skills gap in their organisation in the next 12 months, according to recruitment specialist Robert Half UK

The research, commissioned to launch the Robert Half Salary Guide, highlights the need for SMEs to address the skills gap quickly. The study also found that the average UK SME faces a skills gap that would impact total revenue by £145,000 in the next year, rising to £318,000 in the next five years if not addressed.

Over two thirds of SMEs (67%) said they plan to invest in training and development to fill the skills gap in their organisation, followed by hiring both permanent (44%) and temporary (31%) staff.

The skills gap is one of the most pressing issues facing UK businesses today. It has widened as a result of macro challenges, including a shrinking talent pool due to Brexit, increased digitalisation and the future of work.

Plugging the digital skills gap

The skills gap caused by ongoing digitalisation is especially concerning for UK SMEs. Half (48%) cite digital transformation as the most pressing change facing their business, with seven in 10 (72%) admitting that they struggle to find professionals with the digital skills they require.

SMEs are investing in training and development to upskill existing staff members with the technical skills they need to tackle the digital skills gap, and three in five (63%) say that budgets to train staff on new technologies have increased, compared to two years ago.

In addition to training and development, a significant proportion of SMEs are turning to the temporary hiring market to fill the skills gap created by digital transformation. Three quarters (75%) of SMEs say that temporary staff have become increasingly important to managing digital transformation efforts, with 73% acknowledging that they are using interim employees to upskill permanent members of staff.

Matt Weston, Managing Director of Robert Half UK, commented: “Change is the only constant for UK SMEs in the current business climate. The skills required to thrive in today’s economy are completely different to those required five or 10 years ago, and as a result, the nation’s SMEs are struggling with a skills gap.

“Temporary or contract staff are a vital asset for SMEs looking to navigate their way through digital transformation. Interim staff will apply their expertise to short-term projects, but their experience can also be harnessed to upskill permanent members of staff with new technical skills.

“The cost of today’s skills gap will increase every year until it’s fixed, so it’s important that companies act quickly to avoid the damage it could inflict on balance sheets. The solution is to invest in a blend of training and development initiatives alongside a flexible hiring strategy. Demand for the best professionals with the most relevant skills will continue to grow in the year ahead – and acting quickly to secure chosen candidates must be high on businesses’ agendas, as should initiatives to promote staff retention.”

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Notes to Editors

1Research conducted by Censuswide from 25-29 September 2019 among 962 decision makers in small and medium-sized businesses.

About the 2020 Salary Guide
Since 1950, Robert Half has produced Salary Guides to offer business owners, hiring managers and professionals information on prevailing starting salaries and insight into the latest employment trends. Companies consult the annual Salary Guide to determine appropriate remuneration for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, marketing and business support professionals at all levels.

Information in the Salary Guide is based on the thousands of job searches, negotiations and placements managed each year by Robert Half's recruitment consultants, along with the company's ongoing surveys of executives. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported because many external factors – such as seniority, work ethic, non-monetary benefits, job performance and training – impact the salaries of permanent professionals as work histories develop.

Access the Robert Half Salary Guide

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at and