Skills drought hits family firms

Photo by Goodshoot/Goodshoot / Getty Images
Photo by Goodshoot/Goodshoot / Getty Images

Despite high levels of unemployment in much of Europe, skill shortages are arguably the biggest challenge family businesses face as they enter 2015.

A number of surveys highlight the growing problem for family businesses across the continent, including most recently a study by the influential German small and medium-sized business association the BVMW. The survey found that more than 50% of BVMW’s members find filling job vacancies challenging. The president of the BVMW Mario Ohoven said that the problem is a “nightmare for the Mittelstand”.

The BVMW study comes after the bi-annual KPMG and European Family Businesses survey on family business confidence, which found that recruiting talent was the second biggest issue for businesses in the region. Out of those surveyed in 2014, 42% indicated that the recruitment of staff was a major issue, compared with just 23% a year ago. A decline of profitability was cited by 47% of those as the biggest challenge.

Recruitment of skilled staff was also cited by PWC in its 2014 family business survey as a big challenge. Nearly 50% of family businesses globally were apprehensive about their ability to recruit staff in the next 12 months, up from 43% since 2012.

As unemployment levels in much of the European Union continue to be high, these studies suggest there is a lack of the skills which family businesses need. The overall level of unemployment in the EU is around 10%, with Spain and Italy at the higher end at 24% and 13% respectively. Unemployment levels in Germany are much less, at just over 5%.

Consequently, German family businesses appear to be most affected by the skills shortage. The problem is likely to grow with approximately 1.5 million older skilled workers due to retirement in the next 15 years, say local studies. Many of these employees currently work at family owned businesses.