Thursday, January 7th, 2004

December's survey asked panellists to name a single issue of concern and sought views on Work/Life balance, management style, stock levels, computer glitches, IT skills and authors of computer software. The trends charts from the responses to the regular quarterly questions, analysed by size of firm and sector, can accessed from the Home page of the UKBB website.

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  • About the respondents

    148 respondents were drawn with the following population characteristics:

    Sector
    Production & Manufacturing Distribution Services Total
    25.0% 8.8% 66.2% 100.0%


    Turnover ()
    < 1 M 1M-3M >3M Total
    72.3% 17.6% 10.1% 100.0%


    Number of Full-time Employees
    1-10 11-20 21-50 51-100 100+ Grand Total
    57.4% 31.1% 4.7% 4.1% 2.7% 100.0%


  • Survey Findings

  • The first Survey question in December 2004 asked what would be the single issue of concern on which panellists would seek business advice, were they to do such a thing. Panellists were invited to provide a free-format text response, and the most frequently occurring themes amongst the responses were Employment & Employment Law (35%), Tax [general] (8%), Grants & Funding (7%) Regulation/Red tape (6%), Pensions (5%), VAT (3%), Growth Management (3%), Revenue (2%), Health & Safety (2%), R&D; tax credits(2%), ICT/Web design(3%), Banks & Finance(4%), and Marketing (3%). The actual responses are listed on the UKBB website with the Survey Results for December. In the parallel survey of UK Business Advisers (UKBAB), panellists were asked which single issue of concern to their clients they found the most challenging in terms of providing accurate advice. A degree of similarity emerged between the Advisers responses and those of the UKBB respondents, since the most frequently occurring themes among the Advisers' responses were Employment & Employment law (35%), Grants & Funding (16%), Legislation/ Red tape (11%), Taxation (7%).

    Workers in the UK are often characterised as working longer hours and having shorter holidays than European countries, with this being even truer at more senior levels. Respondents to the UKBB and the UKBAB were in close agreement over this issue - just under half think their work/life balance is too work-orientated, half think it is about right and 3% of both think it is too life orientated.



  • Management style can be an important factor in employee motivation and business success. 26% of UKBB respondents think it is most effective to be inspirational, while 24% prefer consensual management. Target driven was preferred by 19% and 18% opted for pragmatic as the most effective approach. UKBAB respondents were more strongly in favour of inspirational (32%) and pragmatic (22%) as their most favoured approaches, with consensual and target driven taking 3rd and 4th place with 20% and 17% respectively.





  • Stock levels are fairly stable compared to a year ago - 71% of respondents are holding the same level, with 19% holding higher or much higher levels and 10% holding lower or much lower levels.

    Confidence in the ability of computerisation may not be as high as it might because while 24% of UKBB respondents think the relative incidence of computer glitches is decreasing either significantly or somewhat, 42% think the incidence is increasing either significantly or somewhat. Respondents to the parallel UKBAB survey of Business Advisers are even more polarised, with 48% thinking the incidence of glitches is increasing significantly or somewhat, and 17% being of the opinion that glitches are relatively decreasing.



    Confidence in panellists' own skills as computer users seems to be on the increase: 60% of UKBB and 67% of UKBAB respondents say that they notice their own IT skills improving with increased usage, to a high or relatively high extent. However, understanding what the authors of IT manuals are trying to convey is not an easy task for panellists - 66% of UKBB and 57% of UKBAB respondents feel that these authors are not able to communicate their instructions at all or only to a very limited extent.



  • Constraints on business due to both skill shortages and lack of finance have increased on average during the last quarter.

    Businesses with turnovers of under 1M experienced increases in constraints due to skill shortages, as did businesses in the service sectors. Constraints due to lack of finance increased most among firms with turnover of 1M - 3M and also in the services sectors.



    Constraints due to low market demand increased across all ranges of turnover, by the most in the middle turnover, 1M - 3M range.

  • Average growth in the last quarter picked up a little compared to the previous quarter across all ranges of turnover, and for production/manufacturing and services sectors.

    Overall, respondents expect positive growth in the next quarter but at a slower pace than they expected three months ago.





    Listed below are extracts from feedback received in Survey BB79 December 2004.

    Comments are listed under sector headings.

    Views expressed are those of individual panellists and may not represent those of the University.

    Production and Manufacturing

    We are circumventing skills shortages by recruiting skilled workers from Eastern Europe.

    Business Services

    After 9/11 understanding from the Banks has been low.

    We are a service provider, and do not carry stock. You need a Not Applicable option here.

    ICT is changing daily, and it is important that businesses are kept informed. Some owner managers struggle with time restraints and trying to run a business to take time out for getting the training they need. It would be helpful if a bullet point leaflet could be circulated to owner/manager/smaller businesses, highlighting the changes small or large, important or not, so that they are aware, and can build in time out to attend training that is significant to their businesses.

    Not all questions are relevant - e.g if you do not have stock but the questionnaire requires an answer.

    Other

    SPAM is the bain of my life. - other