European businesses are positive about the outlook for 2014, with over three quarters of them (76%) expecting to increase their full-time employee headcount, according to a survey of 200 business owners across Europe conducted on behalf of RSM International, the seventh largest global network of independent audit, tax and advisory firms.

However, over half (55%) of European businesses reported that accessing the right talent is the biggest challenge to their domestic growth.  Equally, when considering overseas expansion, two thirds of respondents felt that hiring the right local people was the greatest obstacle, alongside understanding country-specific regulations.

Jean Stephens, CEO of RSM International, comments: “The intention to increase full-time headcount is a very encouraging sign; it is evidence of a more sustained confidence in the general economic outlook. The war for talent is back, which means that companies need to be more creative about making themselves attractive to employees, and should have a more open approach to flexible working patterns.”

The survey indicated that nearly four out of ten businesses in Europe (39%) plan to make greater use of IT to facilitate flexible working. However, it also showed complacency about IT security risks, with only 10% of respondents considering cyber security to be a key concern, despite it being hailed by many commentators as the biggest threat to both business and government today.

The survey was conducted for RSM by the European Business Awards of which RSM International is the lead sponsor.