The latest Barometer on Change report from business transformation consultancy Moorhouse reveals that 97 per cent of company board members concede that their ability to deliver their strategies successfully will be compromised unless they can gain access to new or additional skills.

Of those surveyed, 66 per cent declared that they needed these new capabilities to a ‘great’ or ‘fair’ extent, a rise of six per cent on 2014’s total.

The survey’s 200 respondents were drawn from major public sector organisations, FTSE 250 companies and UK multinationals, covering a broad span of industries.

The study highlights the fact that heightened demand for new and additional skills is coinciding with a vigorously accelerating need for businesses to demonstrate improved agility. Of those polled, 69 per cent reported a rise in the pressure and pace of change during 2015, while 80 per cent believe this will only intensify over the coming three years.

The rise in those reporting a need for new skills and capabilities has been steady, climbing from 51 per cent in 2013 to 66 per cent in 2015; meanwhile, the number of respondents claiming they were ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ confident in their ability to access these skills plunged from 47 per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent in 2015.

It remains unclear, however, whether the widening skills gap is the consequence of over-zealous cost-cutting in previous years or an expanding economy driving greater innovation and a need for ‘new generation’ capabilities.

Moorhouse partner Richard Goold said: “Securing future growth absolutely requires the right people with the right skills. For the more than three-quarters of organisations that are looking at acquiring those skills either purely externally or through some external/in-house combination, it will be imperative to ensure that focused recruitment and development efforts help transfer and sustain the required skills for such transformations.”

Mr Goold raises a critically important issue: as successive Jobs Outlook surveys from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) have consistently shown, UK employers have been relying on Umbrella Company Employees and other temporary contracting professionals to draft in vital skills they would otherwise fail to access; however, with the altered scope of supervision, direction and control (SDC) rules scheduled to come into effect in April, they are likely to find that their access to such vital external skills will be severely curtailed.

Contractors will, as a result of the changes, be prohibited from claiming travel and subsistence (T&S) tax relief on their often lengthy journeys to their workplaces, with the result that most will either cease travelling beyond their localities or increase their pay rates. These consequences could hit productivity and business agility hard at a time when the need for both is steeply rising.

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