While the crazy job market of 2022 has relented (slightly), we are still seeing some long-lasting effects brought on by the pandemic, writes Ben Curle, an Associate Director at Ambition.
Here are his top five market observations for the year so far and some predictions for the second half of 2023.
- Job numbers are returning to pre-Covid levels
With the hiring valve firmly released during the second half of 2021 and 2022, firms went full steam ahead with releasing roles they had been unable to hire for during the pandemic. This created the biggest surge in jobs we have ever seen in the market.
Fast-forward to today; most of that hiring has taken place and the market may feel ‘cooler’, but in reality, we have returned to the status quo when it comes to job numbers, with most roles predominantly being replacement headcount.
While there are still plenty of roles, the market has certainly shifted back when we compare this with 2022 figures.
- Recruitment processes are taking longer to complete
The ‘race against time’ mantra that gripped most firms during 2022 has now subsided. Firms also know that due to the decrease in job numbers, they don’t need to rush candidates through a hiring process. As a result, hiring processes are taking longer.
On the whole, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Processes are, in most cases, not unduly long, and it does mean that both employers and potential employees have more bandwidth to think carefully about their next hire or career decision.
- Job titles have become muddled
What I mean by this is that we are seeing individuals with vastly differing levels of experience having the same job title. This is most notable at the managerial and specialist level.
To give some context, the competition for BD Manager recruitment in 2022 was particularly fierce, resulting in most specialists being swept up into a BD Manager role, either through an internal promotion or external hire.
This had the subsequent knock-on effect of firms having BD Managers at varying levels of experience and capabilities.
The same situation is present at the specialist level who are now more junior than their peers, given the lack of coordinator hiring during the pandemic. It will be interesting to see how the sector deals with this over the coming years, as the natural progression time from one promotion to another has become skewed away from the model we had almost universally accepted for years pre-Covid.
- BD manager pay continues to be the driver for the rest of the market.
Alluding back to my previous point, BD manager hiring was very competitive in 2022. It would be easy to attribute this to numbers, but the main factor wasn’t the overall quantity of hires, it was the fact that every firm went to market at the same time, wanting the same candidate profile. This turbocharged the competition, and instead of a first-time manager starting at the bottom of the salary banding, they went in halfway up. This subsequently distorted the bandings that had been in place previously.
This will be challenging for firms moving forward, as managers approach the top of their salary bandings. I predict that salaries will need to be adjusted to allow for continued growth, which should ultimately drive up the senior manager salary bandings too.
- Sticking to what they know
For all the talk of a candidate shortage ultimately forcing firms to look outside the legal sector, (for better or worse depending on your perspective) this hasn’t actually happened.
Yes, within the more specialist positions, such as comms or digital, firms are willing, if not preferring, non-legal backgrounds. But within marketing and BD, with the exception of some junior roles, we are yet to see any significant diversion away from hiring people with prior legal BD and marketing experience.
Predictions for the second half of 2023
Here are my predictions for the next six months.
1. An increase in non-management professionals entering the market
As we know, the longevity of these roles tends to have a 12–24-month span prior to moving on or seeking promotion. Those who took their jobs at the start of the market rebound in 2021 and who have subsequently not been looking since may well enter the market.
2. Hiring at management and leadership levels will stay constant
We have seen a fair amount of moves at senior levels within the sector, with new CMOs/Directors joining/leaving, plus some fairly big potential merger talks. As ever, change brings opportunity, so we anticipate management and leadership roles staying strong through 2023.
3. The candidate-short market will continue
Whilst job flow will be less than 2022 in terms of numbers, we expect jobseekers to still be in the driving seat, particularly within the business development arena.
4. Firms will sell their offering beyond the job title/salary
Firms will continue to need to focus on the non-tangibles when selling a role at their firm. Culture, hybrid working, and onward career development continue to be at the forefront of individuals’ decision-making when assessing a new opportunity.
5. The drive for more specialist areas will continue
I expect firms to continue to focus on building out their client relationship/development capabilities, either as a separate function or it becoming more of a focus area for BD manager roles.
In addition, I predict that roles focusing on ESG will become more of a standalone role within a marketing function, as opposed to a technical role or an add-on to an energy BD post.
Ben Curle is an Associate Director at Ambition.