SMEs to focus on workforce stability in 2024 amid ongoing economic pressures says barometer

Workforce stability is the main focus for SMEs in 2024, despite ongoing economic pressures and an uncertain climate, according to the latest barometer from award-winning people experts HR Solutions.

The results of the fourth annual SME Business Survey from the HR specialists were revealed at Your Business Expo at Sywell Aerodrome yesterday.


More than half of respondents (54%) said their biggest business issue this year is recession and cost of living, with 47% citing recruitment as a problem and 39% worried about bringing in new business.’

Yet less than a quarter of those surveyed plan to make any redundancies, instead putting an emphasis on efficient resource management.


And with half troubled by maintaining profitability and 56% are concerned about controlling costs, there is little surprise that 53% plan to focus on cost reduction in order to maintain workforce stability and make better use of resources.


Recruitment and employee retention were also revealed to be pressing issues, driven by competitive job markets and the expansion of the talent pool due to remote working. A worried 45% of SMEs are concerned about the need for wage adjustments in line with inflation, 52% believe employee retention is a key issue and 38% are concerned about talent attraction.


In response, SMEs are rightly prioritising employee engagement and HR Solutions recommends that business owners focus on creating an attractive workplace culture that values diversity, encourages open communication, and promotes work-life balance.


A strong company culture not only supports employee retention but also makes the organisation more attractive to potential employees.


The fieldwork for the survey took place at the end of 2023 and the company surveyed businesses that fall into the SME bracket across multiple industries, including manufacturing, aerospace and defence, agriculture, construction and engineering, education, electronics, healthcare, retail, professional services, hospitality, finance, energy, insurance, property, and pharmaceuticals.


CEO Greg Guilford held a seminar at the Your Business Expo event alongside SME Business Survey partners, local digital marketing firm Qoob, and Pulse Group Media – publishers of Business Times and Business MK newspapers – discussing how to navigate the challenges identified by the study.


HR Solutions have already programmed a schedule of webinars to address the issues raised.


Greg said: “With our survey now in its fourth year, we can see a clear shift in the mindset of SMEs. Financial performance and securing new business will naturally remain at the forefront of owner directors’ minds, but as we know with the cost-of-living crisis and fears of a recession, finances continue to be a top priority.


“We use the results of our survey to provide the best possible specific support, advice and resources for SME business owners to use to overcome these challenges. It is important that SMEs look inwards, and ensure they have the right staff in place. They must also review internal processes to streamline and reduce inefficiencies.


“We would also implore that business owners look at the resources and seminars we have on offer for all the support they need in tackling these issues. Strategic planning and innovative thinking is the most effective way to increasing turnover this year.”


The full results of the survey are available to view now on the HR Solutions website at