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Market Update, Tom Earl, Pure Executive

Market Update, Tom Earl, Pure Executive

Looking back over the last 12 months it has been a period of significant political change. Theresa May has taken over as Prime Minister as a result of the Brexit vote, now having called a snap election for June 8th in a bid to form a unified government ahead of advancing Brexit negotiations. The Western World has been described as moving towards ‘political populism’ leading to the election of Donald Trump in the US, and now a higher focus on the forthcoming second round elections in France on 7 May between Macron and Le Pen. Elections will also be held this year in Germany and the Netherlands, so it will be interesting to see the impact of those results on the EU.

By the close of 2016, the British economy had proved more resilient than originally expected following the vote to leave the EU, with an increase in GDP to 0.7% from 0.6% according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Investor confidence as measured by UK share prices is holding well, but with the effects of the devaluation of the pound now having an impact on our industries reliant on import.

That said, while there is slightly more caution in certain sectors such as housing construction which has seen costs soar, the overriding mindset from our clients within the East of England has been “business as usual”.  Over the last 18 months, we have placed 31 people into Board positions in the East of England as well as a number of senior management and non-statutory Director roles with the focus being on business growth and succession planning.    

Whilst larger organisations’ appetite for recruiting talent hasn’t changed, the notable increase in our Board appointments has actually been for privately owned companies.  We are continuing to see private equity investment, and mergers & acquisitions activity take place across the region with business owners in the East showing ambition and entrepreneurial spirit.  With this in mind, there has been a trend within the private business sector as they look to strengthen their Boards (with both Executive Director and Non-Executive Director appointments) to support this growth. However, we have recruited a number of Board appointments solely with succession planning in mind, either due to retirement or planned exit strategy.  In terms of specific sectors, demand has come from manufacturing, ‘not-for-profit’ and professional service organisations as we support them in strengthening their Boards for the same reasons;  growth and succession.

There are two areas of increased interest:

  • Gender diversity & inclusivity within the Boardroom, and throughout the talent pipeline
  • The ability to nurture and retain talent in the region, as well as attract fresh talent into the region

We are seeing an increase in the number of companies investing in their leaders of the future and many larger SME’s are either engaging with external high profile coaching organisations or developing their own in-house leadership development programmes. This is something we invest in ourselves at Pure and look forward to offering our senior management team a tailored leadership programme throughout this year.

There continues to be strong competition for top talent and to counter this, we are seeing an increase in salaries; however, salary alone is not the deciding factor in talent attraction and retention.   Alongside reward; professional development and feeling engaged are as important, and as such, more leaders are noticeably taking engagement and their employee brand more seriously. There is an opportunity for businesses to fully promote their ‘people strategy’ through their annual published Board reports, a trend we are seeing more of in the FTSE 350 that we then expect to filter through to the private sector. Businesses have also been invited to participate individually and also in collaboration with their local County Councils by 17 April 2017, to input into the government's ‘Building our Industrial Strategy’ paper looking to address the long-term challenges to the UK economy. There is expected to be an overwhelming request from this region on developing skills and upgrading infrastructure in particular, which if recognised will continue to support talent development and retention.

If you have seen any of our recent press, you will know that diversity and inclusivity is a topic we are passionate about. Of the 31 Board appointments we have made in the last 18 months, 9 were female and were appointed into HR Director, Finance Director and Non –Executive Director roles.  With the business benefits of having a diverse Board being well-publicised it is therefore unsurprising that the interest from clients for a diverse shortlist when recruiting remains so high. However at, times, it has been a challenge to short-list equivalent level females for recent board appointments due to a shortage in the talent pipeline in this region. particularly in logistics, product distribution and manufacturing.   To address this, we continue to run our Women’s Leadership Programme, where we have supported over 60 aspiring female leaders to strengthen their leadership skills, develop their confidence and help to grow their professional network. Over 50% of our delegates have either then been promoted or broadened their responsibilities within their business.

If you are looking to strengthen your Board through a key appointment or would like to discuss how your businesses growth or succession plans might impact your overall recruitment needs then please get in touch.