Creative retention strategies on the rise as UK SMEs look for 2012 growth opportunities

Posted on 8 Mar 2012 by The Manufacturer

A new survey of UK manufacturing companies shows that 54% of firms are looking to expand their workforce in 2012 and 23% aim to retain key staff through creative benefits packages.

The new statistics from professional recruitment agency, Michael Page, focuses on small and medium sized manufacturers in the UK.

The overall findings of the survey indicate that UK companies are optimistic about 2012 prospects with over half saying that they plan to increase employee numbers during the year.

In order to retain recruited talent the Michael Page survey revealed that salary step-ups were surprisingly low on the list of attractions being offered by companies.

Instead, career prospects and strong benefits packages were identifies as the favoured means for retention with 32% saying that future promotion opportunities were the most important element of their retention strategies and 23% citing benefits.

Colin Monk

Colin Monk, managing director, engineering & manufacturing UK at Michael Page commented on the increasingly complex nature of the benefits packages being offered by many SMEs in the survey.

Strategies are increasingly featuring what Monk termed “pick and mix options whereby employees can choose from a range of available benefits according to their needs and values. These might include varying pension contributions, flexible working hours or special days off arrangements.”

In terms of the kind of jobs on the increase Michael Brennan, associate director at Michael Page said that in addition to recruiting specific technical talent for niche projects or product development intentions many organisations exhibited a new level of interest in taking on new quality professionals.

The automotive sector is still considered by far the strongest talent pool for this skillset as well as one of the secotrs with the highest level of demand for quality professionals. In 2011 55% of all quality job roles placed by Michael Page were in the automotive and industrial manufacturing sectors.

Particularly for operational roles Mr Brennan said that technical

Michael Brennan

ability or experience was considered less important by employers than “team fit” – said that this focus reflected the increasing importance of retention strategies once a “baseline competence” was assured.

While acknowledging the positive implications for UK manufacturing growth of high levels of recruitment activity Michael Page have cautioned manufacturers not to place too heavy an emphasis on this. “We know the employment will happen for a number of reasons,” commented Mr Monk. “Sometimes it is based on long term vision but there are also short term requirements to be met,” he continued, implying that sustained growth for 2012 should not be assumed from promising January and February recruitment activity.