The shortage of skilled workers is real. Swiss SMEs are looking for solutions.

For many Swiss SMEs, the shortage of skilled workers is an unfortunate reality. The current SME study of Credit Suisse examines the extent of the recruiting problem for Swiss companies, and the staff development strategies they are using to counteract it.

Swiss SMEs occupied by the shortage of skilled workers

Good employees are a critical success factor for companies. But recruiting qualified staff is a major challenge for many Swiss businesses. Two-thirds of SMEs looking for staff have struggled over the past three years to fill vacant positions with suitable candidates, according to this year's SME study from Credit Suisse.


The survey of 800 SMEs shows that the labor shortage is not improving. In fact, most of the companies who responded expect their search for suitable employees to be more difficult in the future. First of all, demographic trends in the years ahead point to an increase in retirees, which will mean additional workforce shortages. What's more, digitalization means new job specifications, which also makes the search for the right employee more challenging.


Finally, flexibility in working models is having an impact on recruitment. As they become more and more popular, many employees consider them a matter of course. But it's not possible to use these models to the same degree everywhere. SMEs who cannot fulfill requests for working from home, for instance, are likely to lag behind the competition when it comes to employer attractiveness.

Companies now focusing on continuing professional development

The Swiss education system, with a multitude of educational paths, is greatly admired by most SMEs. Seventy-six percent are confident that it is well or very well suited to their own needs. Still, it has to keep pace with changing requirements for employees. For instance, 58% of companies feel that the educational system should place more emphasis on learning soft skills instead of merely teaching specialist knowledge. Furthermore, 45% of SMEs believe that the educational content is lagging behind economic transformation.


Many companies have even taken their own measures in response to the skilled labor shortage. One example is continuing professional development for employees: 93% of all SMEs offer their staff at least one option for further training. The motivation for these companies to offer continuing education varies widely. For instance, 77% said that they offer such training because they cannot find specific skills on the market. Apart from closing direct knowledge gaps, further education also covers many long-term aspects relating to HR and recruiting issues. Some 90% of SMEs stated that continuing professional development enhances a company's appeal, raises employee productivity, and ultimately helps retain staff. 

Obstacles to continuing professional development

However, when it comes to implementing educational development projects, many SMEs face certain hurdles. Two-thirds of respondents say they are faced with the certain problem of not being able to spare the employees' time for training. What's more, low employee interest and lack of internal capacity to organize continuing education is of concern for more than half of the companies.


This is where smaller companies experience a disadvantage. A lack of time to plan and hold continuing education courses is much more serious for companies with fewer than ten employees than it is for larger SMEs. It should come as no surprise that an above-average number of microenterprises find themselves among those SMEs that do not offer any kind of continuing education. 

Promoting company talent helps combat the shortage of skilled workers

In addition to continuing education, the identification and promotion of internal talent is an integral part of staff development. Knowledge transfer to the next generation can keep important expertise in the company, especially for companies with many older, experienced employees who are close to retirement.


With this in mind, more than half of the SMEs surveyed stated that overall, they prefer internal company talent when it comes to filling management positions. This offers a number of advantages. Along with cost and time savings for recruitment and a shorter orientation period, promoting from within also has a positive impact on employee motivation, because they appreciate the opportunity for advancement. In other words, promotion of young talent can enhance employee loyalty, thereby helping to combat the lack of skilled employees. 

Credit Suisse 2022 SME study

To what extent are Swiss SMEs affected by the shortage of skilled workers? And what strategies do they use to retain qualified staff for the company? In the 2020 SME study, you will find the forecasts and assessments from the experts, as well as insights into Swiss SMEs.