The vast majority of UK businesses have no surplus workforce, a new study has found.
The latest Jobs Outlook Report by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has learned that almost three quarters (74 per cent) of British businesses have little to no surplus staffing capacity.
And larger organisations are working with the leanest workforces of all. 82 per cent of larger enterprises currently have no surplus workforce.
At the same time, business is acutely aware of the demand for – and short supply of – permanent workers. More than half (52 per cent) of all UK employers reported concern at the lack of permanent staff.
Why the lean market has amplified recruiters’ value
There is a perception that Britain’s biggest businesses have grown comfortable with their shallow staffing. This assumption is reinforced by frequent profiles of the retail and hospitality sectors. These are the two industries perhaps most reliant on zero-hours temporary contractors. But, looking at the wider economy, the opposite is true.
The REC finds that most enterprises remain actively engaged in hiring – despite being aware of the shortage of options. And the clearest hiring trend is in favour of permanent placements.
The REC measures hiring sentiments on a normalised scale. It is a meter which shows a change in intentions, from one quarter to the next. For this quarter, recruitment intentions for temporary staff hires stood at +10. Hiring intentions for permanent placements were even more pronounced, at +24.
Crucially, there is little evidence to suggest that UK firms think that we are “through the bad times” just yet. Confidence in the UK economy has fallen sharply, to an average of -31.
The best of times, the worst of times?
But this may be good news for recruiters. The numbers suggest that firms are now eager to expand their numbers of available personnel. And enterprises are willing to act on their hiring intentions, despite the ongoing economic uncertainty. Although economic concerns may dampen enthusiasm, there is strong evidence to suggest that positive outcomes will nevertheless be acted upon.
In other words: the opportunity to appoint a strong candidate will likely outweigh the economic risk of doing so in the coming quarter.
The study will be seen as an encouraging sign by many recruiters who may otherwise see the choppy waters of brexit and international trade stand-offs as suboptimal for business.
REC chief executive Neil Carberry commented on the study:
“Companies are ready to hire, invest and grow – but the lack of a clear path ahead means that more and more are thinking twice. ”
It is in uncertain times like these that the value the recruitment industry brings is most visible. Businesses rely on the expert advice recruiters offer, while candidates get help to navigate a more uncertain market with confidence.”