What recruitment trends can tell us about 2023

Recruitment is a leading indicator of intent, after all, and also a proof of conviction.

In these blogs we usually talk about the cut and thrust of running a business, and wider trends that we see in the market. It’s rare that we talk about what we actually do day to day. Yet it struck me that our executive search business provides a unique glimpse into how companies are preparing for the next year and beyond.

Recruitment is a leading indicator of intent, after all, and also a proof of conviction. If your priority is digital transformation, then presumably you’ll be hiring data architects and HR professionals who’ve been through such changes before, while if you’re looking at M&A you’ll want corporate finance specialists, etc etc.

In that spirit, here are some of the top line trends we’re seeing in the senior management labour market, with some thoughts for what they might signify.

Expect more CEOs to hang up their hats or leave their industry in the first half of next year – whether voluntarily or otherwise. CEOs are reporting increasing levels of tension. Many are tired of the fight that the perma-crisis has presented. Boards are indicating the need for fresh skills sets to deal with the changing environment. The challenge of course will be finding a CEO ready to step up. Some will fail but stars will be born.

We’ve seen a shift in emphasis from sourcing to supply chain & logistics, perhaps indicating that the global supply crisis that began in early 2020 is stabilising, and UK firms are becoming more concerned with Brexit border checks and labour relations.

Similarly, in finance we’re seeing less demand for commercial finance and more for financial control, as the recession deepens and belts tighten.

The data and technology job market is in flux, with thousands of redundancies in big tech making the headlines.  This masks the fact that many of these companies were over-bloated. The overall deficit of skill set in the market means that those willing to invest whilst others sleep, can steal a lead in the next phase.

We anticipate strong demand for digital, ecommerce and performance / growth marketeers however for companies where the cost per acquisition is making online sales growth un-profitable we believe that there will be an increased demand for marketing & brand directors who can create brand appeal via more traditional creative methods.

The HR landscape is shaking up, with HR directors moving out to do different things – perhaps reflecting the profession’s long movement from a procedural to a strategic function. In any case, this is creating opportunities for second-in-line HR professionals to move into the top position.

Another trend is businesses investing in honing their proposition, which means we anticipate that innovative product/service professionals will be highly in demand. The same can also be said of CX and UX specialists in retail in particular, as companies look to hone their customer experience across stores and online.

In fashion and retail the product, creative or buying director is often the most important person in the business. As we all know the best environment, prices and people mean nothing if the customer doesn’t want what you have to sell. It has started already – Chief Product Officers and Creative Directors will be hot to trot (see Daniel Lea at Burberry or the exiting Alessandro Michele).

Lastly, companies are exploring refreshing their boards with additive skills – largely related to those listed above. This is partly because they’ve found the process of board auditing to be weaker than they’d like, but partly just because they anticipate that in the recession they’ll need all the support they can get to thrive, remain profitable and grow during the downturn.

We’ll revisit these and other trends periodically, but you can always contact us about finding specific senior-level and C-suite needs, or read more about our executive search business here.

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