The key issues facing UK SME’s in 2019

If we believed the rattle of the media, our only worry on the horizon could be Brexit.  However, does the media actually convey what business leaders in SME’s are actually thinking?

Following a simple survey of members belonging to the Academy for Chief Executives, conducted in September, a different picture emerged. Almost every member identified people as the biggest issue that will likely have an impact on the success of their business in 2019.



Several specific challenges were covered by this heading:

Recruitment: Recruiting enough people to support the growth of their business.

Skills: Finding candidates with the right quality talent, with the new skills needed for the demands of the business, and with the appropriate educational capability to learn and bring learning with them to the business.

Retention: Retaining people with the right skills and developing their talents.


400 Academy members, whose businesses represent over a £8 billion in revenue, and who are responsible for employing over 40,000 people, were asked to identify their top ten issues.

The following list was produced and ranked from their responses:

  • Quality People – recruiting, retaining and developing
  • Managing Growth and Change – access and cost of funding
  • Government –competence, regulation and understanding of business
  • Managing Uncertainty – wide geo-political and economic uncertainty
  • Increasing Costs – regulation, commodities, wages and land
  • Technological Change and Disruption – make the most from the digital economy
  • Fostering Innovation– delivering results in a constantly evolving way
  • Understanding Millennials – what drives them, how best to retain and develop
  • Banks and Stock Market – trusting in the reputation of these institutions
  • Security – physical and cyber


Staff retention is becoming more of an issue in a transient world where twenty years of service from staff is no longer a given.  More aware of their own career progression and other opportunities with the rapid increase in information, staff are more likely to move on.  With this awareness, the benchmark of an acceptable working environment has inevitably increased.

Company morale is not boosted by a staff exodus and training staff doesn’t come cheap, especially if you are planning to attract them into staying.  Furthermore, to grow, you can’t afford to recruit the wrong personnel – people in your business are the key to growth. The right people will have plenty of opportunity, so will be looking at what’s in it for them.

Could you make working for your company an experience never to forget?  In other words, is your culture reflected strongly throughout the company; in every relationship; in the tangible environment so that you all live, eat and sleep the right values?

Varied environments with ergonomic workstations and flexible working arrangements can make each one of your staff feel valued and make work a pleasure.  The attention to detail doesn’t have to cost, but the thought has to be there.  This is particularly notable in a society that is spending increasing amounts of time in the workplace – 18% more of the workforce eat their 3 meals a day in the workplace as hours increase.  They will be taking note of how attractive it is to spend this time in your office.

What 4 key differences in the office could make it more attractive? 

Flexible working so that employees can choose the best environment for them. Is working in the buzz of the main office more inspiring or is finding a cubby hole more conducive to thought?

Is it interesting? BCG Digital has made their workspace so varied that employees almost need a map to navigate the space, it keeps your interest.

It will feel like somewhere to take ownership.  Vans give product development their own meeting space which they have decorated with inspiring products.

Incorporate the bigger picture. Why do we come to work?  Millennials like to feel like they’re part of the something meaningful.  Ancestry hang images of employees alongside their ancestors.


Inspired by this article.