SMEs are currently grappling with a major challenge – finding the right talent with the right skills. Skills mismatches and shortages are not just a local issue, but a continent-wide concern for the European Union. 

This May the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, on behalf of the European Commission launched the Flash Eurobarometer 529 European Year of Skills: skills shortages, recruitment and retention strategies in small and medium-sized enterprise. The survey aimed to measure skills shortages in SMEs and provide insights on SMEs’ recruitment and retention strategies. 

Let’s explore the key findings:

  • Importance of skills for SMEs’ business model: 95% of all SMEs say that it is very (82%) or moderately (13%) important for their business model to have workers with the right skills.
  • Skills shortages: three quarters (74%) of SMEs in Europe say they concretely face skills shortages for at least one job role in their company. Also, more than half of employers (53%) report finding it challenging to retain qualified personnel, and almost 4 in 5 say it is normally tough for them to locate people with the proper abilities.
  • Digital skills: 24% of respondents say digital skills are becoming ‘somewhat more important’ in their SME and 38% that these are becoming ‘much more important’.
  • Digital technologies: half of the respondents (45%) state that skills shortages hinder their efforts to adopt or use digital technologies.

SMEs currently employ a wide range of strategies to recruit and keep employees. This includes initiatives to better utilize talent already present within the organization (such as staff mobility or job rotation), greater training expenditures, or enhancing the financial and/or non-financial perks offered by jobs.

SMEs claim they would benefit from improved coordination with public employment services (58%), better tools for evaluating applicants’ skills (49%), and better tools for evaluating the company’s skill requirements (46%).

The call is clear: We need to revamp our education and training efforts to match the skills demand, especially in the face of the digital and green revolutions.

 © European Commission