What Are the Top UK Business Challenges in 2020?

January is an exciting time for UK businesses – it signals a new phase of work with fresh activity mapped out until the end of the year. However, the new year can also be an unsettling time with uncertainty about what the next 12 months will bring. 

In this blog, we look ahead to the challenges businesses in the UK may face in 2020 and the steps we can take to ensure we are on the front foot.

Retaining Top Talent

Year in, year out, talent and recruitment are cited as top business concerns in the UK, and indeed internationally. Around one third of senior business leaders have predicted hiring new staff will be their greatest challenge in 2020 (McKinsey Global Survey). 

In 2019, 88% of UK employers experienced skills shortages, while 68% are expecting to recruit new employees over the next year (Hays Salary and Recruiting Trends 2020). 

This means competition for the top talent will remain strong this year. Here in Scotland, where we already face big skills shortages in PR, marketing and creative industries, we can expect the ongoing ‘war for talent’ to continue. 

Nervousness around staff retention will be a focus as it becomes harder to hold on to talent, particularly at a junior level where these workers are more likely to be in contact with recruiters. 

To counter this, businesses need to place a greater emphasis on promoting themselves to target employees. It is important therefore to demonstrate why your business is a great place to work by promoting an attractive employer brand with fantastic values and perks. 

Overworked and overwhelmed

90% of UK workers say they feel stressed in their current jobs, with around half saying they were stressed at work ‘most of the time’ (Qualtrics, 2019). These findings pose a real challenge to businesses of every size.

Remember that skills shortage we were talking about earlier? It may be about to get worse! Of those surveyed, only 20% said they were likely to stay on at the current job for the next two years. 

To hold on to key staff, UK businesses also need to help support them when they are feeling overwhelmed. We can tackle this by prioritising wellbeing to help manage stress at work. Employers can explore ways to offer better work-life balance through flexible working and should provide support with managing workloads to ensure a happy and productive workforce.

Political certainty?

Now that we finally know that Brexit will be going ahead and that Britain will leave the EU this year, any companies that were previously holding off on making big moves such as recruiting key hires may now be ploughing ahead.

However, for UK businesses with a reliance on EU-national workers, a no-deal Brexit throws up new concerns and might mean that key staff members will lose their EU-derived rights to live and work in the UK. Employers should already be thinking about contingency planning to protect their workforce and be ready to adapt to any new rules that come into play. Home Office information on the Settlement Scheme via Gov.uk may prove useful to employers.


Here in Scotland, with Nicola Sturgeon pushing for a second independence referendum, the Scottish public may be given another chance to vote on whether or not to remain in the UK. 

By the time Brexit is done and dusted, we may face further uncertainty posed by a Scottish exit. As we now know, these things can drag on for weeks, months and years. Being able to cut through the noise in order to connect with clients and customers in the midst of further uncertainty will be a key challenge for Scottish businesses.

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