UK family businesses positive, but concerns around talent remain

20 December 2017

Family businesses in the UK remain upbeat about their economic prospects, in line with the majority of their EU counterparts. However, concerns surrounding talent shortages are on the rise, while access to talent is likely to become increasingly scarce, particularly for British proprietors, 42% of whom are worried about a coming war for talent, as the ageing UK departs from the wider market.

Family businesses are one of the bastions of sustainable growth, focused on generating long-term value for generations to come. To better understand the business environment faced by family businesses across Europe, KPMG and European Family Businesses recently released its latest edition (the sixth) of the’ European Family Business Barometer’, which surveyed 1,100 such businesses across Europe.Family business economic perspective next 12 months

The research highlights that, even in light of various uncertainties gripping the region – such as Brexit and more global geopolitical changes – family businesses are relatively upbeat, both on the continent, where 18% are very confident and 53% confident, and in the UK, where 23% say that they are confident and 60% say that they are very confident.

The survey suggests that confidence has been boosted by improved revenue performances across the continent (57% posted improvement), partly on the back of stronger growth in the region, with 39% citing improved demand and a favourable competitive landscape. In addition, many of the firms have launched new products and services, which has also improved their relative market positions.

Areas of concern remain, however, with an escalating ‘war for talent’ / recruitment of skilled staff cited as one of the top three most concerning issues by 43% of respondents (42% in the UK). This is in spite of the fact most family businesses have traditionally been able to rely on family ties for recruitment and succession purposes. Now, however, increasing competition and what will likely become a depleted workforce, post-Brexit, mean that attractive opportunities could potentially open up to tempt individuals away from their family enterprise. Presently, only 50% of next gens hoping or expecting to take on the management of their family firm. Increased competition, meanwhile, came in at number two, at 37% (23% in the UK), while declining profitability was third, at 36% of respondents overall.

Barriers facedThe areas of least concern pertained to energy costs, access to finance and tax rates – although concern around the price of energy were higher in the UK at 9% - while an unstable exchange rate was considerably more of a concern in the UK, cited by 28% of respondents, over 16% across the survey as a whole.

Family fortunes

Commenting on the increased scarcity of talent, Ingrid Waterfield Director KPMG in the UK, said, “Many family businesses are having difficulty attracting skilled labour and management level employees in the UK. Focussing on attracting a more diverse talent pool, coupled with providing and communicating a compelling employee proposition are two ways in which family businesses are differentiating themselves in the market and overcoming this challenge.”

While businesses are general confident about the future, wider geopolitical concerns remain a key feature – particularly those pertaining to Brexit, and its wider effect on their respective business relationships, in terms of trade, labour, services and capital.

Issues pertaining to Brexit

For instance, few of the UK respondents were very positive about Brexit, at just 2%, while around 5% said that they were positive. The largest group by far, 44%, say that they have a negative outlook on the impact of Brexit on their family business, while 12% say that the impact is potentially very negative.

Across all respondents, 29% of respondents are keen to maintain the current situation, although this increases significantly for UK respondents only, at 47%. Few of the respondents are keen to see a decrease in integration, at 16% of all respondents and 23% of UK respondents.

The impact of Brexit on talent, particularly for high-skilled workers, remains a key issue – with increasing numbers of EU nationals put off by the current environment of uncertainty and, in some instances, hostility from the Home Office.


Six attractive professional services firms to work for in UK

23 April 2019

Consulting firms dominate the 25 companies named by LinkedIn as the most attractive organisations to work for in Britain. JLL, Engie, CBRE, Atkins, Schroders and GE each made the grade, with the professional services sector putting in the strongest showing of any industry in the UK.

Each year, the editors and data scientists of social business platform LinkedIn examine which firms are the most attractive to job seekers, as well as which are the best at retaining their talent. Utilising information gathered from billions of actions taken by more than 433 million members, LinkedIn leverages a data-driven approach to consider what members are doing – not just saying – in their search for fulfilling careers. The result is the Top Companies list, an annual ranking of the most sought-after companies – now in its fifth year.

Each of the previous incarnations of the list has seen a strong showing from the UK consulting industry, with its contingent including McKinsey & Company, EYBoston Consultancy Group and Accenture in 2018. This year has seen the sector continue to see its stock rise, with the diversity of the sector’s workload buoying six professional services firms which were not on the previous ranking to prominence.

Analysing the anonymised actions of British-based LinkedIn members, the company determined which firms were the most attractive through four main pillars: interest in the company, engagement with the company’s employees, job demand and employee retention. As a result of this, real estate professional services firm JLL was found to be the most attractive consulting firm to LinkedIn members in the UK.

Six most attractive professional services firms to work for in UK

Ranked sixth in the overall list of companies, 2018 saw the commercial real estate services consultancy expand its London-based Ratings practice in anticipation of growing demand for real estate valuations in the UK. JLL, which boasts a global headcount of 82,000, holds UK locations in London, Norwich and Manchester, and the firm was recently named one of the world’s most ethical companies for the 12th year in a row by The Ethisphere Institute. 

Sitting 10th in LinkedIn’s ranking, Engie is a French multinational professional services firm, headquartered in La Défense, Courbevoie. While the firm primarily operates in utilities – specifically in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy and petroleum – its investment in cleaner tech has also seen it come to offer a host of engineering consulting services, including feasibility studies, engineering, project management and client support. The firm’s 19,000 UK staff work from offices in London, Leeds and Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

With a global headcount of 90,000, CBRE, which was ranked 13th by LinkedIn, is a real estate advisory firm, with UK offices in London, Birmingham and Glasgow. The firm oversaw the sale of a number of major locations over the course of 2018, including a key residential site in North Leigh, and an office belonging to the British Steel Pension Fund.

Atkins, which was listed 23rd, is a British professional services firm which was purchased by the SNC-Lavalin Group for £2.1 billion in 2017. With 7,300 employees in the UK, Atkins operates from locations in London, Bristol, Kingston-upon-Thames, and offers services in engineering, operations, programme and project management. Late in 2018, the firm was named one of the top employers in the UK for working mothers, receiving plaudits for its innovation in flexible working from

Schroders, a global asset management firm with UK offices in London, Bromley, Chelmsford, ranked 24th. Asset management is a fast-expanding segment of consulting, and according to LinkedIn, 43% of the professional services firm’s staff have been at the company for at least six years, while nearly a third of UK roles were filled with internal candidates in 2017. Schroders boasts a global headcount of 4,600.

Finally, multifaceted professional services firm GE was ranked 25th. The engineering, operations, information technology and advisory firm has its hand in everything from energy to health care – where it was recently nominated for a prize at the 2019 Management Consultancies Association Awards. The long-standing conglomerate said 2019 is set to be a “reset year”, while it seeks to revamp its power-related businesses at the same time that it builds on strong growth within the aviation scene.

Other sectors

Elsewhere, the financial services industry saw a high level of representation in LinkedIn’s ranking. JP Morgan was listed in second place, while Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Aviva also made the grade. This represents a decline of one listing since 2018’s figures, perhaps reflecting the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s financial sector, amid the continued twists and turns of the Brexit saga.

Retail saw a slight rebound on its decimation in last year’s ranking. Having seemingly fallen out of favour in 2018, Sainsbury’s returned this year, sitting in third place. It was joined in the top 25 by fellow ‘Big Four’ supermarket Asda – though the news that some 60,000 Asda staff could be in line to lose their paid lunch breaks under new contracts could well see the company drop off the list in 2020. Marks & Spencer also made the list. The historically up-market supermarket now runs a work-placement programme called Marks & Start, which helps single parents, people with disabilities and the homeless to build careers within the company.

Healthcare and pharmaceuticals saw three entrants in the list too. Britain’s 50 fastest-growing privately-owned pharmaceutical companies have all increased sales by at least 10% in each of their last two financial years, facing down headwinds such as Brexit and NHS spending pressures to deliver rapid growth. GSK represented the pharmaceutical sector in fourth place, while Bupa and Johnson & Johnson stood for the healthcare and hospital industry in fifth and 16th respectively.

While the technology sector ultimately hosted the ranking’s top performer, Amazon, the only other sector incumbent was Google parent company Alphabet, in 19th. Salesforce and Dell Technologies, meanwhile, dropped off the ranking, having both been present in 2018.

The oil and energy sector’s representation is supplemented by hybrid firm Engie; however, the sector only fielded two pure-play members. BP, in eighth, and Shell, in 11th, have both spent time attempting to diversify in recent years, prompted by public image crises relating to the negative impact of fossil fuels on the planet, as well declining oil prices and the rising demand for renewable energy. These dynamics have, in turn, led to new skills coming into demand within the companies. 

Finally, the list was rounded off by singular representatives of five separate industries. Representing leisure in 12th was TUI, followed by food producer Associated British Foods (17th), building materials firm Travis Perkins (20th), telecommunications giant BT (21st) and utilities firm Centrica (22nd).