A recent survey by Kelly, a specialty talent solutions provider, has found that UK businesses are struggling to unlock the full potential of their workforce.

The 2024 Kelly Global Report, which surveyed senior executives across 13 countries, reveals significant challenges in workforce planning and talent recruitment in the UK.

More than half of UK senior executives (51%) admit they are not fully utilising their workforce, while 52% believe poor workforce planning is hindering business growth. Additionally, 43% of executives report missing business opportunities due to a lack of talent.

Only 29% of UK executives feel confident in recruiting specialised talent, the lowest confidence level among the surveyed countries. In stark contrast, 67% of executives in Germany express confidence in their ability to recruit technical and highly sought-after skills.

Skills Development and Career Progression

The survey highlights a critical issue in skills development within UK businesses. Workers identify a lack of skills development (29%) and limited career progression opportunities (25%) as their top frustrations. UK employees are among the least likely to feel their teams have the necessary skills and capabilities to achieve their objectives.

UK executives are also most likely to cite insufficient development opportunities as a primary reason for employee turnover, with 32% acknowledging this issue. These findings suggest a need for more comprehensive training programs to address these workforce challenges.

Adelle Harrington, Vice President, EMEA at KellyOCG, commented on the findings, stating, “These findings are eye-opening. They stress the importance of developing long-term workforce strategies that focus on the right mix of permanent and contingent workers, effective skills development, and employee engagement.”

Prioritising Employee Wellbeing and Diversity

Despite the challenges, the survey identifies positive trends within UK businesses. Improving employee wellbeing is a top priority for 35% of UK executives, with 55% providing more wellbeing support than a year ago. UK businesses are also least likely to mandate onsite work (43%) and express confidence in their ability to improve diversity, inclusion, and belonging (63%).

Moreover, UK executives are most likely to describe their workforce as “highly resilient” (58%). These findings highlight a commitment to employee wellbeing and inclusive practices, which are crucial for building a resilient workforce.

The report introduces the Workforce Resilience Index, which showcases how leading organisations build agile, capable, and inclusive teams. The Index identifies a group of Resilience Leaders (7% of global companies surveyed) who report better results across core business metrics and key people indicators compared to Mid-Market Performers (85%) and Laggards (8%).

Key Insights from Resilience Leaders

Resilience Leaders demonstrate significant advantages over their counterparts:

  • 70% report increased revenue over the past year, compared to 35% of Laggards.
  • 61% report improved profitability, versus 35% of Laggards.
  • 74% report improved customer satisfaction, against 37% of Laggards.
  • 79% report an improved ability to recruit talent, compared to 27% of Laggards.
  • 72% report improved retention, against 34% of Laggards.

These leaders are primarily based in Norway, Sweden, and Germany, with the UK ranking sixth out of the 13 countries surveyed. Australia ranks last.

Best Practices for Building Workforce Resilience

The survey identifies four best practices employed by Resilience Leaders:

  1. Partnering with Workforce Solutions Providers: 71% of Resilience Leaders work with third parties to develop their talent strategies, compared to 35% of Laggards.
  2. Leveraging New Technologies: 64% of Resilience Leaders have a clear strategy for deploying AI to support human work, versus 22% of Laggards. Additionally, 69% use technology to improve workforce analytics, monitor productivity, and support hybrid work.
  3. Tapping into Diverse Perspectives: 77% of Resilience Leaders have a C-suite leader responsible for DEI, compared to only 5% of Laggards. Moreover, 53% offer flexible and hybrid work arrangements for employees at all levels, against 19% of Laggards.
  4. Proactive Wellbeing and Mental Health Support: 54% of Resilience Leaders offer mental health resources, compared to 28% of Laggards.

“The survey shows that a strategic focus on workforce agility, capability, and inclusion strengthens productivity, growth, and employee engagement,” said Harrington. “For those organisations struggling to build effective teams, our Workforce Resilience Index provides critical insights to take their talent strategies to the next level and a baseline for tracking their success over time.”