A study by American Express suggests Britain’s business leaders are planning to take a pragmatic, talent-focused approach to the changing economic climate. The 2017 Global Business and Spending Outlook by American Express and Institutional Investor captures the mood and views of 100 of the most senior financial leaders in the UK, more than half of whom work for companies with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.
The study found that, despite challenging operating conditions and a degree of caution amongst CFOs, investment in recruitment and retention is a key priority for the next 12 months, as talent proves a critical foundation for success in uncertain times. The majority (89 per cent) of the country’s top CFOs expect the number of employees in their businesses to increase over the next 12 months and nearly half (48 per cent) are planning to boost investment in headcount.
This commitment to talent appears driven by a renewed focus on customer service and a lack of talent to help drive business performance. 67 per cent of CFOs say that remaining competitive is one of their most important priorities over the coming year, whilst 84 per cent say that pressure to compete on the quality of customer service has increased over the past two years. And people are central to that – the biggest challenge in delivering great service was cited as retaining great staff (35 per cent) and almost half (48 per cent) of CFOs say that adding more customer service and support staff would have the biggest benefit to the company.
CFOs also cite challenges with hiring and retention as having a major impact on their companies’ ability to meet performance goals – particularly in sales and marketing, administration and support, and operations. To help mitigate challenges attracting and retaining employees over the next year, 62 per cent of CFOs said that their business is making improvements to flexible working, whilst 55 per cent are focused on improving the work environment, and 45 per cent on developing training benefits.
“We work with businesses across the country to make sure they are set up for success today and in the future – and we know that people are paramount to this,” says Jose Carvalho, Senior Vice President, Global Commercial Payments Europe at American Express. “With changing times ahead it’s going to be more important than ever for companies to have the right people with the right skills in place to push their businesses forward. It would be easy for CFOs to tighten the purse strings until the economic landscape becomes clearer, so it’s positive to see that far from cutting jobs, they’re investing in both new and existing people.’’
The report also revealed that whilst UK businesses continue to focus on recruitment and retention, the gig economy is here to stay. Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of FDs plan to use more temporary and contract workers to meet staffing needs over the next year, with 59 per cent saying that this is an important or central part of their business’ employment practices. To help develop remote working capabilities, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of CFOs say they plan to increase spending on mobile technology over the next 12 months.