The latest Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) Business Panel Survey published today (10 September) shows that 89% of companies across the region are offering benefits such as competitive levels of pay, training and skills development, flexible working and paying the living wage.
Over a thousand businesses across the region took part in the latest survey conducted between 10 June and 8 July.
The research exercise also found that businesses are responding to the global climate emergency with two-thirds exploring ways of reducing their environmental impacts. More than half (57%) are planning to make energy efficiency improvements within their businesses.
Many businesses (64%) are also considering how they can use digital and mobile technologies to best effect, while 59% take staff training and development into account when planning.
Regional businesses are generally performing well with around four in five (81%) reporting good or steady performance and three-quarters (73%) expressing optimism about their own prospects over the next 12 months.
Despite two thirds (65%) of businesses being confident that they could access the staff they need in the next 12 months, a similar number (64%) also anticipated challenges in recruiting and retaining staff. Among the constraints identified were supply of suitably skilled candidates, availability of housing and other businesses offering more attractive work packages.
A similar proportion (88%) of businesses are looking at ways of enhancing their competitive position. Actions being taken include investing in premises or equipment, targeting new customers and markets, and analysing data to help inform decision-making.
As reported in past surveys, the prospect of Brexit remains a concern for the region’s businesses.
More than half (55%) felt the UK’s decision to leave the EU presents a significant risk to their business and less than a fifth (18%) reported it would bring new opportunities.
The proportion expressing confidence that they can adapt to the consequences of leaving the EU has fallen from 77% at the start of the year to 67%.
More than half reported trade links with the rest of the UK (59%), membership of the European Single Market (56%), membership of the customs union (54%) and free movement of people across the UK (54%) as important to the future success of their business.
Carroll Buxton, HIE’s interim chief executive, said: “Businesses across the region have provided us with really valuable feedback and detailed insights into the challenges and opportunities they are facing, through this survey. This helps inform the public sector and the Scottish Government on how support should be tailored to best meet the region’s needs.
“While business performance and optimism remain strong, there are clearly uncertainties and concerns over what lies ahead. It is encouraging to see our businesses responding to climate change and adopting fair work practices in their operations. There is still a great deal of uncertainty about how Brexit will affect businesses in the region, and we encourage business to take what steps they can to prepare. There is help available on the Prepare For Brexit website and on our own website where businesses can also sign up to join the panel.”
The full report is available here