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Welsh businesses spend over £51 million on temporary staff - but redundancies continue to rise

The OU Business Barometer report cover
  • Business leaders across Wales have spent £51 million on temporary staff in the last year
  • Talent shortages continue to drive such a significant outlay, with 71% of organisations struggling to find the skills required to fill vacant roles
  • The Open University in Wales is urging employers to invest in existing employees and re-deploy talent to fill skills gaps brought about by the pandemic

Welsh organisations have spent over £51 million on temporary staffing to bridge skills gaps over the last year, despite one in four (25%) making redundancies to cut costs in the wake of COVID-19.

In a further attempt to create quick fixes to the fallout of the pandemic, almost half of Welsh employers (49%) report that their organisation’s survival is dependent on their ability to cut costs, according to The Open University Business Barometer.

But with 71 per cent of organisations reporting difficulty finding candidates with the relevant skills, Welsh business leaders have turned to more expensive solutions and had to invest in recruitment (69%) to fill urgent talent shortages.

The £220 million bill on temporary staff, recruitment costs, inflated salaries and training expenses for candidates hired at a lower level leaves organisations vulnerable to further talent deficits further down the line according to The Open University. Instead, the university is urging organisations to prioritise investment in training and development as a more cost-effective, longer-term solution to the post-pandemic skills puzzle.

Across the board, expenditure on plugging Welsh skills gaps has swelled by 42 per cent over the last year. And looking ahead, while 42 per cent organisations in Wales plan to bring back furloughed staff after the government scheme ends, more than one in four (27%) will rely on hiring in temporary workers to fill in the gap left, while another 15 per cent plan to invest in automation to cut costs further. 

When it comes to hiring, 30 per cent of Welsh employers are expecting to require more managers over the next 12 months to navigate further challenges. But this is taking its toll on recruitment times, with Welsh employers taking longer than the average UK organisation to find suitable candidates, taking nearly three months on average. 

The Open University in Wales is encouraging employers to adopt a longer-term approach when it comes to developing skills and engage in a continuous culture of learning and development that allows organisations to react quickly to future disruption.

Over the past six months, Wales has seen a drastic change in the business landscape, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst many businesses have had to rely more on temporary employees, and having to let go of the furloughed staff, the fast employee turnover can prove to not be sustainable on the long term, as it runs the risk of running up the staggering expenses that employers have reported this year. 

Organisations that prioritise the development of their own employees and adopt a “grow your own” approach to talent acquisition will be able to adapt to further challenges more quickly. More than this, they will in the end save on the costs incurred, compared to those who continue to buy in talent on an ad hoc basis. With the UK already facing a recession and having to face all the consequences of the economic challenges brought by it, continuous learning and development is key to survival in a post-COVID world.

Louise Casella, Director, The Open University in Wales

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