Recruiting difficulties: an obstacle to business competitiveness

According to the latest Syntec Conseil barometer of French competitiveness, difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees are among the main risks weighing on business activity. The cost of skilled labor is also perceived as an obstacle to competitiveness.

Business activity threatened by recruitment difficulties

The latest annual survey from Syntec Conseil, the professional association of French consulting firms, is hardly optimistic. After the health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, French companies face a series of challenges in a highly uncertain geopolitical context: galloping inflation, risk of recession, disruption of supply chains, rising interest rates, but also recruitment difficulties.

Among the many risks threatening business activity, recruitment difficulties rank 3rd, according to the managers surveyed, behind rising energy and raw materials costs.

  • Only 16% of those surveyed consider the risk posed by recruitment difficulties to be of little importance,
  • 41% consider it fairly important or important,
  • 43% very important.

The barometer reveals differences between business sectors: while recruitment difficulties are seen as the main risk by companies in the service sector, rising energy costs rank first for companies in the construction, industry and retail sectors.

Problems of availability and cost of labour

The number-one internal challenge facing the companies surveyed is retaining talent within the company. This is followed by corporate financial management, work organization and energy transition, while CSR issues relating to inclusion and diversity occupy last place in the ranking.

These concerns vary according to company size. Talent retention is the No. 1 internal challenge for SMEs, ETIs and large companies. For VSEs, on the other hand, financial management tops the list.

Overall, managers are rather pessimistic about the outlook for business activity towards the end of 2022.

  • 38% forecast a slight to sharp deterioration in their business,
  • 39% believe the situation will remain stable,
  • Only 23% expect a slight to marked improvement in business.


However, there are significant differences between sectors. The most pessimistic are managers in the industrial sector, with 47% predicting a slight to sharp deterioration in business. The same forecast was made by 41% of managers in the retail sector, 35% in services, and only 30% in construction and public works.

Perceptions also vary according to company size: the most pessimistic are VSE managers, 43% of whom predict a slight to sharp deterioration in business, compared with 39% of managers of companies with 10 to 250 employees, and 36% of managers of companies with over 250 employees.

According to the companies surveyed, recruitment difficulties are also a major obstacle to competitiveness. Problems of workforce availability and qualification top the list. They are seen as the main obstacle to competitiveness by 37% of managers surveyed, followed by the cost of skilled or highly-skilled labor (29%), on a par with corporate taxation.