Wow.. what a roller-coaster of a year it has been so far, and we fear there are more bumps, twists and turns to go. However, I am ever the optimist and if this is as bad as it gets then I feel this community is doing OK in comparison to some. There have been some casualties for sure, the most obvious being the big 4 consulting firms, and some exec level strategy & transformation roles, where we are receiving an increased amount of calls from those having been retrenched or at risk of being let go, but mainly strategy folk are still extremely busy and safe in their roles.
In April we saw many roles go on hold instantly, mostly as part of a whole of business directive. We understand that was not due to a lack of want or need for strategy hires, more that strategy teams and HR/talent teams had to urgently respond to Covid. Strategies changed direction quickly, execs were busy in recession proofing mode and talent teams were all pulled into hiring a vast number of new roles such as call centre staff. But it was not long before the strategy roles came live once again.
Interestingly, many of our recent roles are not as a response to Covid-19, where we would expect to see cost cutting or diversification due to the market conditions, in fact the roles remain focused on growth opportunities.
So where have the roles been coming from?
We have seen several strategy manager level roles coming through in industry across all sectors, but mainly from the bigger ASX organisations as strategy teams add heads and continue to grow due to internal demand. Clients are taking advantage of the increased interest in industry roles currently from management consultants, many whom have had a glimpse of what work/life balance could look like and, due to working from home, have had more opportunity to talk to recruiters and hiring managers. Usually we would need to bolsters the local talent short market with international candidates but at the moment that is:
a/ not necessary due to an increase in on shore interest and
b/ not viable with many organisations putting a freeze on international hiring for the foreseeable future. This is even affecting some on current sponsored visa’s where businesses are reluctant to take over visa’s as part of cost cutting and risk reducing strategies.
At the senior end of the market however recruitment processes are moving somewhat slower. Whilst roles are definitely still there, hiring managers are focused on hiring not only very smart talent, mostly from premium brands such as McKinsey, Bain or BCG, candidates also have to exude executive presence. We are also seeing a renewed focus on diversity at the top end making life more difficult for some. Due to the increased competition in the market salaries are holding fast for most levels but at the senior end we are seeing clients increase their budgets slightly to secure the talent they select.
What is really slowing down processes is trying to get time in exec’s diaries for interviews. Strategy leaders have a lot on their plates right now and whilst hiring is deemed important, so is recession proofing their businesses and responding to the many issues arising daily due to the current economic environment.
All this being said, we are preparing to be busy until the end of the year. When budgets are released in July, we generally see a knock-on effect with an increase in mid to senior level roles in August/ September and then right until the end of the year. We are optimistic that this will be no different despite the obvious challenges. But we also do not see it being a walk in the park to secure the best roles. Candidates are really being tested in interviews with some very tough questions, hard case interviews and HR testing. There are more quality candidates applying for each role, as such clients have more choice. Our recommendation to anyone considering a move is to thoroughly prepare and be interview ready. Gone are the days when just having MBB on your resume and creating rapport is enough to cut the mustard, the bar has risen substantially. Preparation is key.