84% of Australian SMBs confident about their growth despite workforce volatility

people sitting on chair

A new study by SAP SE has found 84 percent of SMBs in Australia are confident in their growth over the next 12 months despite workforce volatility, including the Great Resignation, having directly impacted the digital transformation plans of 89 percent of SMBs. 

These insights have been revealed in new SMB research study released today, Transformational Talent: The impact of the Great Resignation on Digital Transformation in APJ’s SMBs’, which explores the impact of the Great Resignation on Australia’s SMBs and their growth plans.  

Optimism abounds as SMBs move from resilience to focus on growth 

Having managed significant challenges over the past two years, SMBs in Australia are looking beyond a focus on resilience.  

Two-thirds (66%) of Australian SMBs say their organisation is highly or fully resilient in weathering the pandemic’s impact. Not one respondent said they are not resilient at all. That confidence has resulted in a feeling of optimism about their growth prospects.  

That mindset can only be a positive thing for Australia, according to Sofiane Ainine, SMB Segment Lead, SAP Australia. 

“Our small and medium-sized businesses are a bellwether for the wider economy, as the nation’s biggest employer. I firmly believe that when SMBs thrive, economies grow, and Australia prospers”, said Ainine. “By harnessing this optimism and putting it together with great innovation, a commitment to talent, and a strong partner ecosystem we can chart a course to the next decade of SMB success in Australia.”  

The impact of the Great Resignation on SME digital transformation in Australia 

Despite this optimism, businesses now face another challenge – the ‘Great Resignation’. Coined in 2021, the phrase refers to a worldwide trend of millions of employees across the world leaving their jobs. 

SAP’s research found the Great Resignation is real and impacting SMBs in Australia today. Almost half (48%) of respondents agreed that more employees are resigning now compared to just 12 months ago, while 57 percent of SMBs said they are not finding it easy to cope with the impact of the Great Resignation. This is critical, given 94 percent of SMBs say digital transformation is very important to their organisation’s survival over the next year. 

The talent crunch is impacting organisation’s ability to digitally transform their businesses. In fact, lack of skilled talent trails only understanding of available digital solutions as challenges to achieving successful transformation for Australian SMBs, ahead of traditional obstacles like cyber security or lack of budgets. 

“This study reveals how the Great Resignation can be seen as an existential threat to many organisations,” said Mr Ainine. “Digital transformation is a fundamental way SMBs not only build resilience, but how they create agile, innovative paths to growth. But without the right people, any transformation will struggle. Investment in talent must match investment in innovation to ensure SMBs in Australia both survive – and thrive.” 

Investing in talent and training to mitigate the Great Resignation 

SMBs in Australia are investing in their workforce to mitigate the effects of the Great Resignation and to bolster their organisations’ ability to deliver digital transformation.  

Survey respondents said they were focusing on introducing flexible working arrangements (45%) and improving financial incentives (39%) to boost talent retention over the next 12 months. Yet, beyond those strategies, SMBs are also focusing on training. Over a third (36%) of SMEs said they would provide upskilling opportunities to retain key talent in the next 12 months. 

The focus on training can’t come too soon. Over half (55%) of SMBs say upskilling to support digital transformation is urgent, leading to 82 percent of Australian SMBs who will focus on digital training throughout this year.  

“The Great Resignation has often been misconstrued as employees leaving to pursue their purpose. That’s not the whole story,” said Mr Ainine. “Talent requires the right remuneration, flexibility, and a clearly communicated progression journey. Prioritising upskilling and career progression, and supporting it with access to the right technology and partners is proven to be a win-win for employees and for SMBs here in Australia.” 

The full report of Transformational Talent study is available for download here.