SMEs in better position than large firms to face 2021

UK SMEs are in a better position than large corporates in facing the new year, when it comes to technology and skills, according to research from recruitment firm Harvey Nash and consulting firm KPMG.

SMEs are “better prepared” for remote working, “less distracted” by cyber attacks and “less held back” by skills shortages than larger firms, according to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey.

Over 500 UK SMEs and 160 large UK corporates were surveyed for the research.

The study found that UK SMEs are almost three times more likely (49 per cent versus 18 per cent) to increase technology investment, and twice as likely (50 per cent v 24 per cent) to recruit tech professionals than larger corporates over the next 12 months.

Almost 50 per cent more large corporates than SMEs have reported an increase in cyber attacks since moving staff en mass to remote working in March.

Over four in ten (41 per cent) SMEs reported that all of their key workers could work remotely effectively even before the pandemic hit the UK - but none of the larger corporates were in this position.

Over two thirds (70 per cent) of SMEs reported that over 75 per cent of their key workers could work remotely effectively compared with only 40 per cent of large corporates pre COVID-19.

Smaller firms are also less impacted by skills shortages - around a third (28 per cent) fewer SMEs than larger corporates report that skills shortages are preventing them from keeping up with the pace of change.

Bev White, chief executive of Harvey Nash Group, said: “COVID-19 has posed significant challenges to whole swathes of businesses, both large and small. But the picture we now see emerging is that nimble SMEs are in many ways better positioned for recovery and growth than their larger counterparts.”

She added: “In the past, employer brands were often strongly tied with physical assets, like impressive head offices and fantastic facilities. But the pandemic has removed the pre-eminence of such things.”

On remote working, 84 per cent of SMEs have moved a “significant part” of their workforce to remote working as a result of COVID-19.

Over two-thirds (68 per cent) expect 30 per cent of their staff to remain predominantly working from home post COVID-19, with 43 per cent expecting over 50 per cent of their workforce to remain mainly working from home.

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