Research from GE Capital has revealed the top HR issues facing UK mid-market businesses, which are responsible for over a third of all jobs in the UK. The Leading from the Middle report, which surveyed 630 mid-tier UK firms (defined as having annual turnover of £15m – £800m) found that the top three Talent Challenges ranked by difficulty are:

  • Retaining talented employees (26% of businesses surveyed rated as a ‘high challenge’)
  • Providing competitive wages and benefits (22% rated as a ‘high challenge’)
  • Finding talent with the right skill set in the local area (22% rated as a ‘high challenge’)

In contrast, businesses view providing adequate training as less of an issue, with 44% saying that it is ‘little or no challenge.’ 45% also agree that competing against international companies for talent is ‘little or no challenge,’ showing that the mid-market is yet to feel the full effect of international competition for talented employees.

Results across the country however were by no means uniform. For example, grooming future leaders of the organisation is presenting a much bigger challenge for firms in the North than it is in the South. On the other hand, Northern businesses are finding it significantly easier to attract employees with the right set of skills when compared with businesses elsewhere in the UK. Only 13% of businesses in the North saw attracting employees with the right skill-set as a high challenge, whereas 22% in the South used this rating. The North-West and Scotland in particular were significantly more positive than most other areas in the UK on this front.

Whilst the mid-market comprises less than 2% of UK businesses, it created 67,000 jobs in the past year. The average UK mid-market firm grew by 2.3% , compared to 2.4% in Germany, 1.7% in France and 0.2% in Italy. Whilst these growth figures represent a reduction on the previous year, they highlight the UK mid-market’s relative resilience compared to the other large European economies.

Ilaria del Beato, UK CEO of GE Capital commented: “Despite being responsible for a third of employment in the UK, mid-market firms are too often the unsung heroes of the economy.  Their focus on talent and HR is likely to be one of the reasons for their relative success in recent times; great businesses are made up of great people.

“As the economy picks up the top three talent challenges look to be a reflection of the increasing competitiveness within the UK economy. As growth increases, so does the need for these businesses to reward current workers and make additions where ability or capacity might be lacking. Talent retention needs to stay at the top of the agenda and if mid-sized businesses can react to this problem then they can look to the future with optimism.”