The key to UK regional strategies?
The tight labour market meant 80 per cent of UK businesses faced hiring challenges in the first quarter of 2023
As UK business leaders look for new ways to outwit their competition, many are hoping to expand their national reach without losing touch with the regions they already work in. To make this a reality, not only will they need employees to connect with customers, but they will also need to identify opportunities for innovation that will push regional strategies forward. Currently, the tight labour market meant that 80 per cent of UK businesses faced hiring challenges in the first quarter of 20231. Keeping employees can be a challenge, too: in the past year, more than half of UK workers either started a new job or were looking for one2.
In our latest research, 38 per cent of businesses say they need to improve talent retention over the next 12 months to make sure their regions of interest receive enough attention. The businesses also say that addressing skills gaps and matching employee numbers to demand will help them carry out their regional strategies. With talent in short supply, businesses across the UK need to find innovative ways to use and nurture their current pool. But how will they do this?
North England, Wales
Other featured areas
Scotland, Midlands, London, South of England
Target talent with rich local knowledge
When organisations familiarise themselves with a new region, a knowledge of local cultures and market dynamics can help them to use the right tactics and avoid making mistakes. As UK businesses explore new markets over the next 12 months, our research finds that access to local talent and specialist knowledge of local cultures is important for success. Employees with local knowledge can offer contextual insight about the local people and area, which is helpful from the early recruitment stages, through to training and delivery.
For property consultancy and surveying practice, Sanderson Weatherall, local talent is integral to their regional success.
Our core values ensure our nine offices are operated by people who live and work in each region. Their local market knowledge, real-life experience and involvement in communities are fundamental to meeting our ESG goals and delivering the right advice to clients, as well as preserving our reputation as a leading regional player in the property industry.
Finance Director, Sanderson Weatherall
Use feedback and knowledge sharing to get essential intel
For about a quarter of the surveyed businesses, listening to employee feedback helps them to succeed in local markets. Evidently, employees who feel trusted and empowered are 1.5 times more likely to deliver better customer experiences, and those with longer tenures generate more revenue3. However, the ingredients for success in local markets differ from region to region.
Employee feedback and sharing knowledge are especially important to companies in the North of England, but less so in the South:
In the North say that listening to employee feedback is an ingredient of success in the local community, compared with 27 per cent of businesses overall and 25 per cent in the South of England.
of business leaders based in the North say that knowledge sharing is important for retaining links in the local community and expanding into new regions, compared with 24 per cent of businesses overall and 21 per cent in the South of England.
Here we see northern businesses are adopting more of a bottom-up approach to talent, by listening to the knowledge coming from employees and then circulating these insights across the business. Whereas businesses in the south of England appear to be prioritising a top-down approach, tasking team leaders with recruiting new employees and then building initiatives that will minimise staff attrition. Nearly half of businesses in the south of England say that recruiting and retaining top talent is a key ingredient for success in the local market. This compares to just 36 per cent in the north of England and overall.
It's interesting to see that all regions recognise the value of regional talent in their local engagement strategy, but we do see a north/south divide in how companies are building productive workforces. As high-quality talent is crucial for expanding into new locations, when entering a new region businesses should consider the size of the local talent pool, the skills at their disposal and consumer demand, and tailor their talent strategy accordingly.
Head of Mid Corporate North, Barclays Corporate Banking
Scale resources according to demand
Skills shortages continue to be an issue for UK businesses, with 73 per cent saying that they are struggling with this4. Scaling resources to demand could be one way to mitigate the effects of skills shortages. Over the next 12 months, more than a third of the businesses in the Barclays research plan to improve the way they scale their resources to match demand. This means assessing and monitoring demand in each region and building local workforces to meet it.
Businesses can reduce the impact of skills shortages by improving how they match resources to demand. For example, a new branch in the east of England may predict a surge in enquiries in response to an upcoming product launch. They could, therefore, focus on building a team of local employees that work all year round, as well as a pool of temporary staff that can be drafted in when demand is high. Filling resource gaps is essential as a third of the businesses in the research say that improving the level of attention they give to their regions of interest has led to increased productivity and less wasted resource.
Despite the ongoing labour market challenges, organisations can still get the best out of their staff by making the most of their ideas and skills. Do it right, and businesses will find they have the resources they need to engage with local areas, maximise revenue and fulfil their regional ambitions.
The research was carried out by FT Longitude and Barclays Corporate Banking and comprised a survey of 352 senior UK business leaders, at organisations with an annual turnover between £6mn and £250mn. The study established an equal representation from each of the following UK regions in terms of the location each respondent's business was registered in: Scotland, North of England, Midlands, East of England, Wales, London, South of England and Northern Ireland.
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