SMEs confident about growth despite workforce volatility


A new study by SAP reveals that 84 per cent of SMEs in Australia are confident in their growth within the next 12 months despite experiencing volatility in their workforce.

The SAP report Transformational Talent: The impact of the Great Resignation on Digital Transformation in APJ’s SMBs’, which explores the impact of the Great Resignation on Australia’s SMEs and their growth plans, highlights the fact that 66 per cent of Australian SMEs say their organisation is highly or fully resilient in weathering the pandemic’s impact. More surprising, the report also shows that not one of the SME respondents say they are not resilient at all.

According to Sofiane Ainine, SME Segment Lead, SAP Australia, such confidence has resulted in a feeling of optimism about the sector’s growth prospects and such a mindset is positive for Australia,

“Our small and medium-sized businesses are a bellwether for the wider economy, as the nation’s biggest employer,” Ainine said. “I firmly believe that when SMEs thrive, economies grow, and Australia prospers.

“By harnessing this optimism and putting it together with great innovation, a commitment to talent, and a strong partner ecosystem we can chart a course to the next decade of SME success in Australia.”

Despite this optimism, businesses now face another challenge – the ‘Great Resignation’ – with 48 per cent of respondents agreeing that more employees are resigning now compared to just 12 months ago, while 57 per cent saying they are not finding it easy to cope with the impact of the Great Resignation. The report pointed out that this information is critical, given that 94 per cent of SMEs say digital transformation is very important to their organisation’s survival over the next year.

“This study reveals how the Great Resignation can be seen as an existential threat to many organisations,” Ainine said. “Digital transformation is a fundamental way SMEs not only build resilience, but how they create agile, innovative paths to growth. But without the right people, any transformation will struggle. Investment in talent must match investment in innovation to ensure SMEs in Australia both survive – and thrive.”

SMEs in Australia are investing in their workforce to mitigate the effects of the Great Resignation and to bolster their ability to deliver digital transformation. Survey respondents said they were focusing on introducing flexible working arrangements (45 per cent) and improving financial incentives (39 per cent) to boost talent retention over the next 12 months.

SMEs are also focusing on training, with 36 per cent saying they would provide upskilling opportunities to retain key talent in the next 12 months. In particular, 55 per cent of SMEs say upskilling to support digital transformation is urgent, leading to 82 per cent of Australian SMEs saying they will focus on digital training throughout this year.

“The Great Resignation has often been misconstrued as employees leaving to pursue their purpose. That’s not the whole story,” Ainine said. “Talent requires the right remuneration, flexibility, and a clearly communicated progression journey. Prioritising upskilling and career progression, and supporting it with access to the right technology and partners is proven to be a win-win for employees and for SMEs here in Australia.”