South Australian Business News

Breaking down the issues facing bigger businesses

Tuesday, February 27th 2024

Opinion editorial — Jamie McKeough, Managing Director — William Buck

While the broad group of issues facing all businesses are the same, some are far more pronounced in larger businesses, an observation I made while analysing the findings of the December 2023 Quarter Survey of Business Expectations, a collaborative effort between William Buck and the South Australian Business Chamber. 

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that addressing the challenges faced by the larger end of town demands a nuanced approach distinct from that applied to their smaller counterparts.

Let’s be clear, irrespective of headcount or revenue, every aspect of the business spectrum merits attention, particularly during a cost of doing business crisis”, the number one ranked business issue from the survey. 

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the board have grappled with shortages in staff and skilled labour, consistently ranking among the top concerns. 

Over the past year, an average of 52% of businesses have reported experiencing labour shortages. Yet, when we zoom in on larger businesses, the data paints a stark picture: more than 86% of larger enterprises have faced labour shortages in the last three months alone.

While the scarcity of available labour remains a hugely pressing concern continuing to compromise business’ ability to reach their full potential, I’ve observed a shift in staff turnover, both from the survey and through anecdotal feedback from our clients. 

Previous survey responses have underscored the pace of movement in the labour market, where employees exhibit shorter tenures and transition between roles more frequently in pursuit of higher salaries or perceived opportunities. Staff turnover rates are better than a year ago which is a very good thing for stability and productivity within a business.

This is also supported by an examination of SEEK data comparing national job advertisements in December 2023 to the corresponding period in 2022 reveals a 17.4% decline in job postings. 

Addressing the skills gap in our state is not a task with a simple solution. This challenge resonates globally, reflecting a widespread workforce readjustment following the pandemic. 

South Australia, and indeed Australia as a whole, grapples with the need to develop or import skills from abroad to mitigate shortages across various industries. However, this approach introduces additional considerations, including strains on housing, infrastructure, and navigating complex immigration laws – issues again coming through loud and clear in the survey.

Staff and skills shortages rank as the largest concern for larger businesses, closely followed by the overarching challenge of the cost of doing business, which on a broader scale, stands as the primary issue confronting all businesses. 

The growing amount of new government legislation for businesses to adhere to, especially following three tranches of industrial relations reforms are also of significant and increasing concern for large businesses, with 56% saying it’s impacting their business, compared to 41% of smaller businesses. 

Additionally, 46% of large businesses have expressed concern about cyber security, compared to 26% of smaller businesses. 

In good news for the banks, 87% of larger businesses described their current relationship as satisfactory or good, with service levels a little behind but still very good at 74%.

These results and more explained in the Business Now report, highlighting findings in the December quarter South Australian Business Chamber, William Buck Survey of Business Expectations. 

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