Outlook for mid senior level corporate affairs hiring

11 July 2016

There is no doubt that Brexit will further extend a period uncertainty and we all know in periods of uncertainty, investment decisions are postponed. This applies as much to strategic hires as it does to capital expenditure. Although the last six months have seen some senior level hiring in corporate affairs, activity levels have undoubtedly declined year on year. In fact it goes back further than this – the past 12-18 months have seen an unprecedented number of high calibre corporate communications/affairs directors come onto “the market”.  Many of these individuals, with some justification, expected to find a new role commensurate with their ability and reputation, reasonably quickly. But to their surprise and consternation this has not been the case.

 It has not just been the build up to the referendum, it is the broader economic climate, both domestically and globally that has been subordinated. Growth and expansion ambitions have been subordinated to a cost containment/reduction agenda, with some exceptions.

 In the absence of any clarity and consensus about what the future looks like it is difficult to see any significant pick-up over coming months

 However there is always opportunity in uncertainty and we envisage a few bright spots on the horizon, where the corporate affairs ‘industry’, both in-house and in consultancy, could experience some growth in demand:

 i)                    Public affairs & policy and regulatory affairs – once a new Conservative leader and administration is installed, with a modified policy agenda and set of priorities, there will undoubtedly be an interest in developing an understanding of the key actors, their policy priorities and how best to engage with both.  Similarly the process of disengaging from Brussels will create a demand for consultants who can bring clarity and advice on now best to navigate the process.  

ii)                  Employee engagement – there is going to be a lot of change and disruption, and employees in a number of sectors are likely to feel either isolated or concerned about their futures as a result of Brexit.  In fact it is probably fair to say that organisations are on a permanent change cycle, since the world will simply not stop changing and organisations need to constantly evolve to keep up.  Keeping employees engaged through constant change so that they don’t become disenchanted or detached - and to ensure therefore they deliver what their organisation needs from them – is likely to be a key priority.  This is going to require new skillsets and new operating models, since current structures and approaches have been inherited (even if modified) from a ‘command and control’/job for life world.  Some strategic hires will be necessary to initiate and lead new thinking.

iii)                Rebuilding trust and regaining license to operate.  If there is one thing that Brexit starkly illustrated, it is that business has lost its voice and authority – its warnings and views failed to resonate in the campaign.  Companies and their consultancies will have to enlist some of their best and most creative brains into developing campaigns and initiatives that will connect with employees and other stakeholders and help close this trust deficit; to show that business is a force for good in society.  This may result in the need to hire people with that expertise.

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