Northamptonshire businesses focus on recruitment in uncertain market, new survey reveals

Half of Northamptonshire businesses are planning a recruitment drive over the next 12 months to support growth in a more challenging economic environment, according to a new poll from financial and business advisers Grant Thornton.

Northamptonshire Limited 2018: L-R Hilary Chipping of SEMLEP, Chris McDermott of Cambridge Weight Plan, Mike Hughes of Grant Thornton, Kieron Salter of KW Special Projects and Fiona Baldwin of Grant Thornton
Northamptonshire Limited 2018: L-R Hilary Chipping of SEMLEP, Chris McDermott of Cambridge Weight Plan, Mike Hughes of Grant Thornton, Kieron Salter of KW Special Projects and Fiona Baldwin of Grant Thornton

The survey of local companies was conducted at the 2018 Northamptonshire Limited event when Grant Thornton unveiled the results of its annual analysis of the 100 top performing businesses in the county. This year’s study found local firms continue to prosper with increases in turnover, profitability and employment.

Results from the event poll reveal hiring new people will be by far the most important factor for local businesses to continue this positive growth trend over the coming year (50%). This is followed by investing in new technologies (19%), acquisitions (14%), capital expenditure (13%) and a rise in exports driven by the lower value of the pound (5%).

However, the survey suggests the next 12 months will also present a more challenging backdrop with the majority of businesses questioned (53%) stating current businesses conditions are more difficult than this time last year. A further 47% of firms said economic growth was their biggest worry ahead of interest rate rises, Brexit or GDPR.

Commenting on the poll findings, Mike Hughes of Grant Thornton’s Northampton office said: “Despite wider concerns over continued uncertainty as the Brexit clock ticks down, the picture here in Northamptonshire looks positive as businesses continue to thrive. The focus on recruitment is a clear sign of confidence with firms optimistic about their future prospects and growth potential.

“Whilst local business highlighted the more challenging market conditions, this is perhaps not surprising as negotiations with the EU are still taking shape. We should remember that time and time again, Northamptonshire firms have demonstrated strong resilience and are well placed to overcome any challenges and seize new opportunities as they emerge.”

Businesses looking in invest in new people will however face increased competition as the UK reaches ‘full employment’ and the battle for talent escalates across the recruitment market.

When asked how to overcome the challenge of attracting skilled people to their business, the majority (41%) of firms questioned in the poll results said offering an attractive employment package with good benefits and flexible working was the most important factor. This was followed by demonstrating strong career prospects (28%) and improving relationships with local schools and colleges to secure bright young talent. (27%).

Businesses also recognised that the image of Northamptonshire as a desirable place to work needs boosting. This could in part be achieved by improving transport links and infrastructure and continuing to develop a strong sense of community.

Mike added: “People are at the heart of every business and having the right skills in place to move forward is central to achieving growth. In this competitive employment market companies need to think outside the box to secure the best talent, looking beyond monetary incentives to flexibility, strong career prospects and other ‘softer’ benefits which today’s workforce demand.

“Northamptonshire also needs to continue to enhance its reputation as a fantastic place to live and work and the ‘place to be’ to succeed. At Grant Thornton we believe all parts of the county from business, public sector, local government and communities need to work together to achieve this aim and help create a vibrant economy which draws people to the region.”