A view from the top

31 Jan 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Has hiring been affected since Brexit?

The recruitment industry is a great barometer for how the PR and corporate communications industry is fairing.  As we saw from our analysis last year, it’s very consistent as we handled the same amount of in-house and agency roles in 2016 compared to 2015.  The industry is robust and we are leaner and better run nowadays.  The amount of senior hires didn’t change either, however, the most notable difference was we filled more partner/MD roles with corporate consultancies compared to financial PR agencies.  Normally, it is the other way around.


Which agencies aren’t doing well and who is faring better?

In my opinion, it feels like the top level advisory agencies have fared better than the execution agencies across the industry.  Some corporate and financial agencies didn’t fare as well due to less M&A and fewer IPOs which has affected their profitability and will no doubt be reflected in bonuses to come.  Most agencies pay out bonuses between December and April.  However, we have heard a number of times that public affairs teams have thrived as clients have wanted advice on Brexit. 


Surely everyone doesn’t want to move in-house?

The ‘grass is greener’ syndrome is here to stay.  We can have 10 conversations with board level professionals down to Account Director and they will only want to move in-house.  Similarly, in-house professionals rarely want to move back agency-side.  This is been happening for years although for some reason, agencies haven’t really woken up to it yet.  Have you ever wondered when you are looking for an AD with financial services experience why you don’t receive any decent CVs?   The agencies are now fighting for great talent but I fear a lot don’t know the best way to work with a search agency like us or have given enough thought on how they differentiate themselves and their culture. 


What’s the most common mistake that Head of Comms make when hiring?

They often think that advertising will fill a corporate communications role with an industry best.  The PR and corporate comms market is a passive one and 80% aren’t looking for a job and don’t have the time to check adverts.  Adverts are skimming from a 20% pool of people and typically not our industry’s best.  We know this as we have analysed the quality of candidates coming our way from adverts for the last 13 years!  I appreciate it’s often part of the company’s process but the days where adverts work well is over.  It’s not how the majority of our sector looks for a job. 


How can I keep my good people longer?

From our findings, the number one reason why people move jobs is not money (that’s number two) but career progression and feeling challenged.  Our suggestion for the in-house teams is to get your high performers to swap roles.  If you want to keep them challenged, then mix things up.  The expertise will remain in the team and the stakeholders may have a mild panic but it’s worth it for keeping them an extra year.  Another option is sharpen up your digital skills.  It’s not enough to outsource digital, it has risen to the forefront and it would be a good idea to reinvent yourself to stay relevant.  Training up your teams at all levels will help with career progression. 


We have lots more meetings to come so I’m sure there will be further thoughts to share.  If you are interested in commissioning us for an executive search then please do get in touch.

The Works Search specialise in placing super senior PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on an executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.

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