Updates to this research will be published monthly to track the impact and response to COVID-19. View previous wave.
The latest wave of the COVID-19 SME Research Tracker shows there is a long way to go, but the anticipated recovery is well underway as we approach the end of a challenging 2021 for SMEs. This month we can report revenue and profit have both increased and sentiment regarding the Australian and Global economies has continued to strengthen.
Accordingly, SMEs have quickly reactivated staff recruitment with 25% now trying to fill vacant roles compared to 18% in October. However, the ongoing shortage of qualified candidates available in the talent market continues to hinder the recovery and hence SMEs will welcome the return of skilled migrants as soon as possible. Consequently, the delay in opening international borders due to the Omicron variant will be another body blow for SMEs.
Table 1: Job Vacancies
While SMEs remain cautious about growth expectations over the next 12 months, sentiment regarding investment in equipment, people and marketing is on the rise. While demand for finance remains flat (12%), as cashflow issues diminish, the need for equipment finance has again spiked this month.
Table 2: Expectations Regarding Business Investment (Next 3 Months)
In line with lockdowns ending the proportion of employees working from home has quickly dropped to 34% compared to 51% in October. Moving forward 40% of SMEs will use a hybrid work model, including 14% that will allow staff to work from home as much as they choose. As employees return to the workplace, SMEs of all sizes report a significant increase in vaccination mandates rising to 43% from 30% in October.
Table 3: Hybrid Work Models
Satisfaction with the Federal Government continues to tick up as business conditions become more favourable, but SMEs in QLD are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their government as border closures and restrictions remain in place. Sentiment in VIC also remains very negative.
Table 4: Satisfaction with State Government's Response
In summary, SMEs are gearing up as activity rebounds and the chase for talent accelerates with expectations for the Christmas period and early 2022 looking much more positive.
While the Omicron variant may again dent confidence in the short term, current sentiment towards the Australian and Global economies continues to increase and hence investment intentions are becoming stronger.
Please click on this link to access the full report including subgroup analysis by industry sector, size of business and State. Fifth Quadrant and Ovation Research will publish updates of this research to track the impact and response to COVID-19. Hopefully the results will continue to become more positive as we work through this crisis together.