78% of businesses feel optimistic for the future
The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Ltd. (LLEP), has released the results of its annual Business Tracker Survey. The survey collates the views and opinions of local businesses, and helps the LLEP to understand their needs. This in turn will inform future policymaking, and ensure support is appropriately targeted. The results of the survey are available to download now from the LLEP website.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the Leicester and Leicestershire economy, with many businesses struggling to deal with the effects of restrictions enforced upon businesses and a change in demand for products and services. This survey has measured in detail the impact of Covid-19 on businesses over a period of 12 months, and allowed them to express their views on the support received and their future outlook.
For example, More than three in four have made use of the furlough programme for staff members, rising to a whopping 93% of small businesses. The survey details the proportion of businesses that have received financial support (grants or loans) to help cope with the impact of Covid-19. However, 10% of respondents state that they have accessed no support at all.
Since April 2020, 64% of respondents have had staff working from home for the first time. This figure rises to 74% for small businesses. While two in three businesses had no provision for home working before the Covid-19 restrictions hit, the pandemic has caused a shift in attitudes among employers. Thirty per cent now intend to allow greater flexible working options than before.
Greater flexible working demands a high degree of digital proficiency, and digital transformation is one of the major cross-cutting themes of the LLEP Business Tracker Survey. Eighty-nine per cent of businesses agree that digital provision is an important area of consideration. However, while 84% of respondents wish to some extent to grow digital technology in their business, over one third feel that digital and information technology (IT) skills need to be improved among their employees.
Staff training, recruitment and skills is another major area of focus of the survey. Micro businesses were much less likely to recognise any skills gaps at all, but the LLEP saw a general demand for improved IT, marketing, and technical skills.
Despite the hardships of the pandemic, many businesses responded positively to questions of recruitment. One quarter had recruited in the past two months, and though there were general concerns with the number of applications from people without the requisite skills, nearly half of all respondents said they will look to recruit in the next six months, with only 6% expecting to make redundancies.
This positive outlook was reflected in answers relating to business confidence, with 78% feeling confident about the future of their business in the next six months. Four in ten businesses expect to grow over the next year, with only 4% expressing no confidence at all.
Kevin Harris is Chair of the LLEP Board of Directors. He said:
“The results of this survey will play a huge role in helping to target our future investments and business support. Armed with the knowledge of what business want to see in future, we can work with providers to develop programme that address fundamental issues such as digital literacy and import-export guidance.
“It is great to see that, despite the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of businesses feel confident about the future. This speaks to the resilience of the business community here is Leicester and Leicestershire, and its capacity for adaptation that has always made our region a hotbed of innovation and creativity.”
Two hundred businesses have taken part in the survey, and contributed a broad range of responses from a wide variety of industry sectors. Sixty-one per cent of respondents were micro businesses (businesses with 2-9 employees), while 34% were small (10-49 employees) and 5% medium (50-199 employees). These demographics are broadly representative of the economy of Leicester and Leicestershire, as 98% of businesses in the region employ fewer than 50 people; SMEs are truly the backbone of the local economy.
Other areas that the survey focused on include business performance, export and import, environmental issues and issues related to the Business Gateway Growth Hub. The full results can be found on the LLEP website