Recruitment Message for 2024 - Proceed with Caution
(This article appeared in the MRS ResearchLive Industry Report 2024.)
The post-Covid period was a unique “moment in time” in the MR recruitment business, with companies restaffing and recruiting for growth. However, late 2022 saw a sharp slowdown, with core vacancies filled and speculative appointments declining along with business confidence.
The MR sector was not alone. KPMG/REC’s Oct 23 “UK Report on Jobs” noted “Permanent staff vacancies decreased in 5 of the 10 broad employment categories during September,” MR being in one of the 5.
2023 has seen fewer vacancies, some recruitment freezes and even a few redundancies. The silver lining is that if you need to hire, now is a good time - fewer companies competing for talent, more candidates job-hunting, and a growing understanding among candidates that some salaries have perhaps been artificially high.
Equally, this type of market benefits some candidates. There is always a demand for good people and when vacancies are in short supply, the best rise to the top. And there is always demand for “hard to fill” roles for people with specific skillsets, including early embracers of AI.
There are more mid-level (SRE/RM) than junior vacancies, which can be explained by the tightness of recruitment budgets and the risk of taking more senior staff away from research for training.
The attendant shortage of more senior roles reflects the industry’s uncertainty about the future and the reluctance to branch out into new markets at a time of economic downturn. And the cost-of-living crisis is having an impact across all sectors, with budgets squeezed and less MR commissioned.
So what’s in store in ‘24? We suggest “caution tinged with optimism” i.e. a tight market but with positive factors, namely:
- The growth in AI – early adopters in the MR sector will benefit from powerful tools and capabilities previously unimaginable
- Spring - usually sees an uplift in spirits, new budgets at the start of the new financial year, and demand as MR firms plot their journey for the
- General Election - an election can have a positive impact on business with a sense of renewal and general re-booting
- Major sporting events - the Olympics and the Euros bring not just a “feel good” factor but also increased marketing budgets and MR spend
Ultimately, recruitment is driven as much by optimism, hope and positivity as by economics. We are all hoping for a greater supply of these in 2024!