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    BIS RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER 170

    Multinational employers’ perceptions of the UK workforce

    MARCH 2014

  • The views expressed in this report are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

    Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

    1 Victoria Street

    London SW1H 0ET

    www.gov.uk/bis Research paper number 170 March 2014

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    https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-business-innovation-skills

  • BIS Multinational employers’ perceptions of the UK workforce

    Contents Executive Summary........................................................................................................................ 5

    Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 8

    Background................................................................................................................................... 8

    Objectives ................................................................................................................................... 10

    Methodology.................................................................................................................................. 11

    Approach..................................................................................................................................... 11

    Sampling: defining, measuring, accessing and profiling the population...................................... 11

    Fieldwork..................................................................................................................................... 14

    Notes on the analysis and reporting............................................................................................ 14

    Profile of firms surveyed.............................................................................................................. 15

    Characteristics of multi-national employers ................................................................................ 17

    Important factors in investment overseas.................................................................................. 23

    Key findings................................................................................................................................. 23

    Factors influencing choice of territories to enter ......................................................................... 23

    Requirements from the workforce in ‘new’ territories .................................................................. 26

    Perceptions of the UK workforce ................................................................................................ 31

    Key findings................................................................................................................................. 31

    Perceived strengths and weaknesses of the UK workforce ........................................................ 31

    Comparative perceptions of the UK workforce and their skills.................................................... 35

    Potential improvements to the UK workforce .............................................................................. 40

    Influences on perceptions of other territories .............................................................................. 42

    What might the future hold? ........................................................................................................ 43

    Key findings................................................................................................................................. 43

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  • BIS Multinational employers’ perceptions of the UK workforce

    Perceived direction of travel of the UK workforce ....................................................................... 43

    Future prospects for expanding into the UK................................................................................ 45

    Potential targets when attracting UK inward investment ......................................................... 47

    Key findings................................................................................................................................. 47

    The needs and perceptions of prospective ‘new’ inward investors ............................................. 47

    The needs and perceptions of non market-driven investors ....................................................... 49

    Conclusions .................................................................................................................................. 53

    Appendices.................................................................................................................................... 55

    Needs and perceptions of multinational employers, by skill ................................................... 56

    Managerial / leadership / supervisory skills................................................................................. 56

    Team working / motivational skills............................................................................................... 58

    Business development, sales and marketing.............................................................................. 60

    Customer service ........................................................................................................................ 62

    IT (Information Technology skills) ............................................................................................... 64

    Awareness / competence of legal frameworks (including Health and Safety and environmental law etc)........................................................................................................................................ 66

    Problem solving skills / ability to multi-task ................................................................................. 68

    Communication skills .................................................................................................................. 70

    Job specific technical skills ......................................................................................................... 71

    Commercial awareness (ability to turn new ideas into viable and profitable products)............... 73

    Level of relevant work experience............................................................................................... 75

    Level of relevant qualifications .................................................................................................... 76

    Work ethic, reliability and productivity ......................................................................................... 78

    Needs and perceptions of multinational employers, by territory............................................. 79

    North America ............................................................................................................................. 79

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  • BIS Multinational employers’ perceptions of the UK workforce

    Executive Summary The UK is rated second out of seven countries, for the overall skills of its workforce, just behind Germany and just ahead of the USA.

    Workforce skills and work ethic are important influences on multinational employers’ decisions on territories to target for their inward investment: around four-fifths of employers see these as important, when prompted with a list of factors. Their significance is, however, of a lesser order than the availability of a market for the firm’s products and services.

    The specific skills which are most important to multinational employers largely tend to be ‘softer’ skills such as business development, sales and marketing (particularly among French multinationals and ICT multinationals not yet in the UK); team working and motivational skills (particularly among the largest multinationals, with 5,000+ global staff); and managerial / leadership skills.

    That said, multinationals may be thinking of these ‘softer’ skills in an ‘applied’ sector- specific context, as nearly three-fifths of employers say that, overall, ready-to-deploy specialist skills are more valuable to them than a good basis of general skills. Around one in six are overt in their desire for ‘hard’ applied skills, in that they cite job-specific technical skills as the single most important workforce skill area (a skill area chosen as key particularly among German multinationals not yet in the UK). The ‘applied’ skill in question is more likely to be engineering or sector-specific technology than anything else.

    Perceptions of the UK workforce appear to be weaker for these key skill areas, relative to their perceived importance to employers (i.e. for each of business development, sales and marketing skills; team working and motivational skills; managerial and leadership skills; and job-specific technical skills, multinationals are more likely to choose it as their single most important skill area than they are to spontaneously cite it as a perceived UK strength). The reverse is true of the UK’s level of relevant qualifications; and communication skills – i.e. employers are more likely to cite these as UK workforce strengths than they are to single them out as their most important skill area.

    Anal