Six in 10 CEOs say attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges facing their business, new report finds   - Business in the Community

Six in 10 CEOs say attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges facing their business, new report finds  

Business in the Community (BITC) has today published a new report Lifting Up the UK: State of the Nation 2024, which gathers insights from business leaders on the major challenges facing their companies, alongside how they are addressing key societal and environmental issues. 

The report includes survey results and in-depth interviews with the leaders of some of the UK’s largest 450 companies, representing over £643 billion in revenue and £7.7 trillion in assets. Business leaders shared their views on what’s needed to make the UK a fairer and greener place to live and work and the barriers that are hindering collective action.  

The report outlines business leaders’ opinions on the challenges facing UK businesses, societal and environmental priorities, barriers to action and views on a new way of doing business to enable collective action. The key findings in the report include: 

  • 57% of CEOs ranked attracting and retaining talent as one of the top three greatest challenges facing their business, especially recruiting and retaining green and digital skills.  
  • 55% of CEOs ranked new technologies or generative AI as one of the three greatest challenges facing their organisations.  
  • 74% of CEOs ranked geopolitical unrest, political uncertainty or economic headwinds in their top three challenges and have called for a stable long-term economic plan and policy certainty to boost innovation and unlock investment.  

On environmental and social issues, the research found: 

  • 85% of CEOs identified climate change and the transition to net zero as one of the three most significant risks to their business, yet many companies are struggling to move from targets to action, with costs, skills and stakeholder engagement holding many back.  
  • 49% of CEOs include social inequalities in their top three societal and environmental risks facing their businesses and are prioritising action to secure their future workforce by acting across the country to tackle social mobility, investing in future skills and ensuring that their workplaces allow everyone to reach their full potential, regardless of background. The research also found that 47% of CEOs said lack of diversity and inclusion or poor staff wellbeing is a business risk.  
  • 97% of CEOs said that addressing societal and environmental issues has either remained or grown over the last year, but there remains broad recognition that more needs to be done. Businesses are therefore designing new ways to partner, collaborate and tackle complex issues together.  
  • 53% of CEOs cited the complexity of systemic societal or environmental issues as one of their three greatest barriers to action, while 53% selected regulation and government action and environmental issues or regulation and government action. 43% of CEOs are hindered by the high costs of action, especially on their net zero transition.  

In addition, business leaders were asked to identify the areas they would most like to see immediate government act on. Economic stability, clear plans for climate action, access to skilled talent, resolving deprivation and delivering on social mobility are the key areas they want the government to focus on.  

Leaders also highlighted that clearer, longer-term planning around climate change and the net zero transition would enable them to increase the necessary investment in innovation and skills needed for the future. To help achieve this, business leaders said they wanted to work closely with policymakers to come up with the right solutions to scale investment.  

 BITC is working with businesses in every region of the UK to transform lives, to create a country where: 

  • Every young person and job seeker feels supported and has clear pathways into work. 
  • Every employer is investing in skills that are needed for today and for the future, creating workplaces where everyone has the opportunity to grow and reach their full potential, regardless of background. 
  • Every community has a shared sense of pride and hope, with support to tackle the difficult challenges and where there is a strong collective vision of a fairer, greener and better tomorrow. 

Peter Harrison, Chief Executive of Schroders and Chair of Business in the Community, said: 
“As leaders, we know there is real value in us working together to address the challenges facing our businesses and wider society. While the scale of the issues can sometimes be daunting, there is a real willingness from leaders to work together and act. This report gives us the tools we need to understand where action is needed most, and I look forward to working with Business in the Community to come up with the solutions needed to build a fairer, greener world together.” 

C.S. Venkatakrishnan, Group Chief Executive of Barclays, said:  

 “Business is a powerful force for good in the UK, creating strong economies and communities.  The insights in this report equip business leaders to plan for change, the transition to net-zero and the rapid acceleration of technology. By working together, across industries and sectors, we can create a better future for society.”

Mary Macleod, Chief Executive of Business in the Community, said: 

 “Recognising and understanding the challenges business leaders face is crucial for effective collaboration. All the issues and business opportunities outlined in this report showcase a real need for UK Chief Executives to work together to tackle the biggest societal and environmental challenges facing the UK. By not working together, we risk being held back from achieving economic growth and prosperity, and creating a country where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of their background.” 

The Lifting Up the UK: State of the Nation report, supported by Schroders and Barclays, is the beginning of an annual review which will capture the views and opinions of the leaders of some of the UK’s biggest 450 companies. 


Notes to editor 

  1. Read the Lifting Up the UK: State of the Nation 2024 report here
  2. The research data in the press release was taken from a BITC survey that went out to the 450 biggest companies in the UK, with a follow up detailed interview with 44 CEOs/board members. Businesses interviewed included Schroders, Barclays, British Airways, Compass Group, HSBC, LSEG, Linklaters, Sainsbury’s, WPP, McKinsey & Co, BUPA, Asda, Ernst & Young, GSK/ViiV Healthcare, Deloitte, John Lewis Partnership, Octopus Energy and Salesforce. 

For further information, please contact Aoife Butler Nolan, Head of Media, Public Affairs and Policy on 020 7566 8681. 

About Business in the Community  

Business in the Community is the UK’s largest and most influential responsible business network dedicated to building a fairer and greener world together, supported by His Majesty the King for over 40 years. We inspire, engage and challenge purposeful leaders to take practical action to mobilise their collective strength as a force for good in society.