Demand for UK managers showing signs of recovery

May 14 2009 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Yesterday's news from the Bank of England that it is putting back its prediction for when it expects the UK economy to pick up from end of this year to the middle of 2010 is a dampener on any thoughts of rapid green shoots. But UK managers should not be completely downhearted, because a new global survey has suggested they are in fact better placed to find a new job than many of their counterparts around the world.

The quarterly survey of more than 4,200 firms by recruitment firm Antal has found the percentage of organisations in the UK also expecting to shed staff in the next three months is substantially lower than the worldwide average, suggesting the British jobs market may, at the very least, be beginning to level out.

Globally, the number of firms saying they were hiring was from 54 per cent at the beginning of the year to 47 per cent now.

But the percentage of organisations intending to hire in the coming quarter had actually risen, from 43 per cent to 44 per cent.

And in Britain some 45 per cent of businesses were currently recruiting with more than half expecting to recruit in the coming quarter. This compared with just a fifth of firms hiring in Switzerland, although in Malta it was a whopping 72 per cent.

Nevertheless, the past three months have not been pretty for executive recruitment firms, according to a survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants.

It found the number of worldwide executive searches fell by more than third in the first quarter of 2009 against the same period a year ago.

Executive searches in the financial services industry, perhaps unsurprisingly, suffered the hardest blow, with a more 40 per cent drop, while the industrial sector fell by more than a quarter.

AESC president Peter Felix was gloomy in his assessment. "No region, industry or function has been unaffected. Top management have been caught in the headlights of overwhelming uncertainty and have acted more to protect assets and reduce costs than to plan for the future. It is thus no surprise that the worldwide executive search profession has been affected."

And a poll of nearly 240 HR professionals by reward consultancy Innecto has found little evidence of pay and bonuses improving anytime soon.

Nearly two thirds of companies polled said they were freezing pay this year, with the vast majority also withdrawing bonuses that would normally be awarded.

Justine Woolf, senior consultant at Innecto, warned that simply putting pay in stasis could be short-sighted measure, however tempting when budgets were tight.

"Companies that freeze pay without addressing their reward schemes are going to be at a major competitive disadvantage," she pointed out.

"Productivity tends to go down as employees lose their financial incentives to achieve objectives, and the differential created as some companies do increase their pay makes it harder to attract and retain talent. Catching up will require larger pay rises in the in the future, something which the business may not be able to sustain," she added.

Yet Antal's chief executive, Tony Goodwin, was, for one, still cautiously optimistic for the future.

"The period of panic and unilluminated gloom does finally seem to be behind us. Recovery may still be a good way off, but it could be that we are now better prepared to pave the way to it than we have been for quite some time," he said.