UK Businesses Fail to Unlock the Full Potential of their Employees, Survey Finds

  • UK executives most likely to say they are failing to unlock workforce potential

  • UK businesses least confident in their ability to recruit specialised talent

  • Lack of skills development and career opportunities top frustrations for UK workers

Businesses in the United Kingdom are most likely to say they are failing to unlock the full potential of their employees and poor workforce planning is holding back growth for most organisations, a survey conducted in 13 countries by specialty talent solutions provider Kelly has found. The 2024 Kelly Global Re:work Report reveals businesses in the UK particularly struggle with recruiting specialised talent and developing their existing workforce.

The fourth annual global workforce report from Kelly, titled Building a Resilient Workforce in the Age of AI, shows more than half of senior executives in the UK are not unlocking the full potential of their workforce (51%) and that poor workforce planning is impeding business growth (52%). Four in 10 executives (43%) say they are missing business opportunities due to a lack of talent.

Just 29% of UK executives express confidence in recruiting talent with technical or highly sought-after skills, the lowest rating among the 13 countries surveyed. By comparison, 67% of executives in Germany say they are confident in recruiting specialised talent.

The survey indicates UK businesses don’t offer adequate training programs to tackle these challenges. UK workers identify a lack of skills development (29%) and a lack of career progression opportunities (25%) as their top frustrations. They are among the least likely to say their teams have the skills and capabilities required to achieve their objectives. Among executives surveyed globally, those from the UK are most likely to cite insufficient development opportunities as reason for employee turnover (32%).

“These findings are eye opening,” Adelle Harrington, Vice President, EMEA, at KellyOCG, said. “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.”

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Despite these challenges, the survey identifies bright spots. Executives in the UK are most likely to say that improving employee wellbeing is a top priority (35%) and most (55%) say they are providing more wellbeing support than a year ago. UK businesses are also least likely to say they have mandated onsite work (43%) and most confident in their ability to improve diversity, inclusion, and belonging (63%). Executives in the UK are also most likely to describe their workforce as “highly resilient” (58%).

The Re:work Report offers insights into how the world’s leading organisations build resilient teams. For the first time, the report features a Workforce Resilience Index, which reveals how best-in-class businesses are building agile, capable, and inclusive teams. The Index identifies a group of Resilience Leaders (7% of global companies surveyed) who report better results across both core business metrics and key people indicators compared to Mid-Market Performers (85%) and Laggards (8%).

  • 70% of Resilience Leaders report increased revenue over the past year vs. 35% of Laggards.
  • 61% of Resilience Leaders report improved profitability vs. 35% of Laggards.
  • 74% of Resilience Leaders report improved customer satisfaction vs. 37% of Laggards.
  • 79% of Resilience Leaders report improved ability to recruit talent vs. 27% of Laggards.
  • 72% of Resilience Leaders report improved retention vs. 34% of Laggards.

Workforce Resilience Leaders are most commonly based in Norway, Sweden, and Germany, the report finds. The UK ranks sixth out of 13 countries surveyed. Australia ranks last. The survey identifies four best practices for building workforce resilience:

  1. Partnering with workforce solutions providers builds more agile and capable teams. 71% of Resilience Leaders work with third parties to develop their talent strategies vs. 35% of Laggards.
  2. Leveraging new technologies offers better visibility into talent demands. 64% of Resilience Leaders have a clear strategy for how they deploy AI to support human work vs. 22% of Laggards. 69% use technology to improve workforce analytics, monitor productivity, and support hybrid work.
  3. Tapping into diverse perspectives and providing flexible work arrangements empowers employees to contribute. 77% of Resilience Leaders say a C-suite leader has DEI responsibilities compared to only 5% of Laggards. 53% of Resilience Leaders offer flexible and hybrid work arrangements for employees at all levels vs. only 19% of Laggards.
  4. Being proactive about wellbeing and mental health improves performance. 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,” Harrington said. “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.”

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