Simon Roderick - Fram Professionals - market update

Anywhere but the middle

Anywhere but the middle

Simon Roderick

June 18, 2023

I had a really interesting conversation the other day with someone far more intelligent than me – one of the many benefits of my job. We were talking about consumer behaviour during downturns and where firms need to be positioned and their argument was “anywhere, but in the middle”. If you take food retail, I think most people would say the current environment plays into the hands of Aldi and Lidl well. Equally, the LMVH share price is up circa 51% in the last year and 177% in the last five years – just because growth is slow in Europe, it isn’t everywhere, and there’s a lot of wealth in the world unaffected by inflation.

What’s this got to do with the world of recruitment? Well, we feel there’s more hiring going on at junior levels and senior levels than in the middle. A number of firms have entered “wait and see” mode, a number of sectors are dealing with a highly changeable conditions, but when they are hiring it’s either a more junior level or at the most senior of levels. Why? What we saw after the financial crisis was a “juniorization” of roles. The rationale is that you replace a leaver with 15 years’ experience with someone with five and all will be well. In some instances, of course it does work well. On the whole though, it’s in the difficult times you need people with relationships, experience, and judgement, and often these things get better with time. You will also see strategic hiring at a senior level when boards feel they need new skills for the rapidly changing world we’re in, or shareholders feel leaders have run out of ideas. You can be a great CEO, but the person for one phase of a business’ journey isn’t always the same person needed at the next stage. However, the current market can leave those in the mid-ranks of their career frustrated. Experienced, knowledgeable, but few places to go, and therefore the key things to remember are that all things pass and you’re not alone.

It is a strange time. Unemployment is at 3.8%, pay settlements in the private sector have been strong (the Bank of England may argue that’s part of the problem), but people don’t feel wealthy. Inflation is eradicating pay gains and at the same time commuting costs are rising as firms ask colleagues to spend more time in the office. We’ve seen more “stand offs” of late whereby employers want colleagues to be in the office more, and teams don’t want to be. We feel this will continue for some time and may cause firms to have more offers rejected than usual. We will eventually find a “norm” and in the interim all parties need to be reasonable to show flexibility.

Firms also need to ensure they protect their brand during quiet periods of hiring. Actually, I think that of all the many reasons firms outsource their recruitment, this is often an undervalued benefit. In boom times, an established recruiter/headhunter/agency/executive search firm (or whatever people brand themselves as – recruiter down the pub, headhunter at dinner parties - or sometimes best to say nothing), can help lesser-known firms establish their brand with their peers and in the market. In quieter times, firms often become really bad with candidate feedback. We’ve all looked for a job at one time or another, but it doesn’t stop firms becoming less communicative. Equally, whilst I know why firms implement applicant tracking systems (ATS), if the constant stream of complaints we hear is anything to go by, they aren’t popular with candidates. Hard to navigate, and general making you feel like a number, automated processes can make a job search impersonal. Despite best efforts, we all sometimes fail when it comes to candidate experience, but when firms outsource there is at least another layer between them and the job seeker, thus freeing up their time, cashflow, resources, and, in this example, protecting their brand.

Another topic we’re asked a lot about on our travels is AI. When you take to extreme levels, it becomes quite scary. How can we replace so many jobs so quickly etc. However, of those I speak to about their own role, the general consensus is that it will just be an aid, another tool to aid productivity. The adage of “people do business with people” is challenged in many doomsday scenarios, but I still think it’s true. Indeed, I mentioned above that if it was possible in an ideal world you wouldn’t use automated recruitment process, as people want to speak to someone. I think AI is an area that’s going to be hard to regulate, as you’d need a global consensus, which often seems impossible on any subject. Therefore, I doubt we can change the trajectory and so we will just have to see. I really enjoy the relationship side of my business, and meeting people post-pandemic is a real treat, the idea this could be diminished is sad.

Fram Professionals focused on placing office professionals into fast growth and dynamic industries. We produce a lot of market data, which we try and share, and we’re always keen to improve our networks. Do reach out to us if we can help.

About Fram Professionals

Fram Professionals focuses on placing office professionals in dynamic, innovative, or venture-backed firms in the London – Oxbridge “golden triangle”. We focus on mid-to-senior permanent hires across key functions such as finance, sales & marketing, legal, and management positions.

Contact us on [email protected] or call 01525 864 372 for an informal chat about our services.

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