Executive Market Trends 2021-2022

The Barrett Group’s VP of Marketing, Marion Engelke, interviews Peter Irish, CEO of The Barrett Group and Tomasz Lisewski, Managing Director of The Barrett Group Europe on Executive Market Trends in 2021 and 2022.

Welcome to this edition of the Hiring Line.  My name is Marion Engelke and I’m speaking today with Tomasz Lisewski, the Barrett Group’s Managing Director for Europe, Middle East, Africa, and with Peter Irish, The Barrett Group CEO.

It has been a tumultuous year for the world.  What would you say were the impacts on the market for executives? Tomasz, let’s start with you.

Tomasz Lisewski: Overall the executive job market showed a good recovery, however it was a mixed bag by industry. While aviation, hospitality, traditional retail and automotive continue to suffer, our clients kept landing in growing industries like tech, financial services, healthcare, and e-commerce.  We have seen a positive surprise from education / non-profit and government becoming top 5 industry. As well as energy, construction and real estate coming up in the top 10 industries where our clients have landed in 2021. I expect this trend to continue in 2022. I think this is the Barrett Group’s strength—to help our clients transition to industries that are growing.

Thank you, Tomasz, and viewers can of course read these executives’ success stories on our website, but Peter, how do you see the year just past?

Peter Irish: Well, I certainly agree with Tomasz that we all have a lot to be thankful for given the background conditions.  We’ve just completed our annual All Industry Update that covers about 3.6 million C-level and VP executives on three continents. And indeed the churn rate was about 4.3% overall, and higher in Europe.

Of course, the churn rate addresses changes within existing jobs.  On top of that, there is growth in the overall number of executive positions.  Industrially, we see Biotech, Renewables & the Environment, Coaching & Training, Investment Management, and a number of IT specializations as having added the largest percentage of executives in the period.  All of these are north of 4% growth year on year.

Of the businesses we have looked at in detail so far, Financial Services is by far the largest. It comprises banking, investment management, accounting, tax advice and insurance.  About 400,000 executives work in this business in our respective geographies. And there was significant movement throughout 2021.  Black Rock, for example, tops the bill on growth at 12.5% increase in the number of executives.  But in absolute terms JP Morgan added more than 500 in the period and CitiBank another 360.

Is so much change typical year on year or are we in a time of high fluctuation?

Peter Irish: My perspective is that the so-called unpublished market is pretty much always alive and well.  There are always managers and owners wracking their brains in their spare time for how they can solve this issue. Or take advantage of that opportunity. Or resolve some bubbling crisis.  We help our clients appear like Johnny on the Spot at the right time. So that even when the role is not yet fully defined and certainly not advertised, our clients can step in and present a solution while they help to define the role.  This gives our clients huge leverage in negotiating their compensation along the way because no formal package has been predefined for a role that has just been created.

So the rate of change in executive ranks is not unusual?

Peter Irish: Well, perhaps that is not quite true.  We saw a huge influx of clients in 2021 but I think that could be because you are doing a good job marketing our services, Marion.  More executives are becoming aware of career management and taking advantage of it to proactively manage their own careers.

Thank you, Peter.  How did clients land in Europe and the Middle East in 2021, Tomasz?

Tomasz Lisewski: I must admit that the results exceeded my expectations with three-fold increase in the number of clients landing in the region.  It happened across the European Union: Benelux, Germany, France. But also Italy and Spain, as well as the UK, Switzerland in Europe and UAE and other GCC countries in the Middle East.  The key driver for that was our consulting team’s expansion, giving us a presence in all key markets.

What about the geography of executive employment, Peter.  How did that evolve in 2021?

Peter Irish: New York City remains the number one location for executives worldwide based on our data.  There are some 260,000 C-level and VP executives there and this number is up about 2% against prior year.  Los Angeles is number two in the ranking at about 180,000 followed by San Francisco at 99,000 and Washington DC at 96,000.  But these latter three show relatively modest growth of just 1.3-1.8% per annum.

All of the fastest growing reginonal markets in 2021 are outside the US. Including London, Paris, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Munich to name the top five.

Frankly, we expected a rather modest increase in the The Barrett Group’s US  business in 2021 due to Covid-19 and the economy at large but are pleased to report massive growth—50% more clients—as well as excellent landing and negotiation results.  We are actively helping clients pivot to higher quality jobs that better fit their lives and, of course, pay more.

OK.  Pull out your crystal balls please and let’s look ahead at 2022.  What should executives expect?  Peter?

Peter Irish: I’m an avid reader of the Economist, so much of my data comes from that source.  I think there are a number of broad themes to keep an eye on.  First, there is Omicron or, more generally, Covid-19.  The newest variant is proving extremely transmissable and this is causing disruptions to holiday plans, international travel, and most importantly filling hospitals with symptomatic infection.  It may be that Omicron is less lethal than Delta, but it is still too early to say.  What experts are saying is that the vast majority of infections and deaths are among unvaccinated people, so get vaccinated and get boosted.

Our focus regardless of the pandemic will be on helping clients to navigate the massive changes in the economy. Migrating form struggling industries into a flourishing business segments by clarifying their own personal targets, discovering suitable unpublished positions, demonstrating their transferrable skills and experience, and then excelling in interviews and offer negotiations.

What other trends do you expect in 2022?

Peter Irish: The second major theme I see going forward is economic.  We hear the Federal Reserve in the US beginning to tighten the money supply as a precursor to eventual rate hikes in 2022.  Inflation has spiked of course and the big question is whether this is a temporary increase due to supply chain shortages or whether it is a longer term effect perhaps related to too much stimulus.  Don’t forget how many trillions have been pumped into the economy by various central banks in 2020 and 2021.

So far the stock markets have taken these indications of higher inflation and interest rate hikes in stride, but there is no question that interest-rate sensitive businesses will be affected as rates rise over the next few years.

On the other hand, there still seems to be considerable pent-up consumer demand as people simply have not been able to spend discretionary income due to the pandemic and some governments are continuing to contemplate further stimulus.

We hear a lot about the ‘great resignation’ in the US.  Do you believe this will have a lasting effect on the nature of work, Peter?

Peter Irish: The Economist questions whether there is in fact any lasting uptick in resignations based on the data. But I can certainly understand if, given all of the effects of the pandemic from remote working to home schooling to being closeted in your home without recourse to dining or entertainment. This has to have an effect on society.  We are told that there is an increase in clinical depression, for example, and one of our advisors was recently touting a fundamental change in how executives behave as a result of the pandemic based on their psychographic profiles.

My take on it is that we must all be realistic but not let our circumstances get in the way of our aspirations.

Tomasz Lisewski: That’s a great point, Peter.  I talk to dozens of executives every week, and I find that job satisfaction is more important than pay check for more and more people. I hear many executives value the purpose-driven organizations and the right cultural fit is very important.  That’s also something our research team can assist with giving more background about a hiring company and hiring manager.

So why do executives need the Barrett Group?

Tomasz Lisewski: The reality is that candidates are not very likely to land an executive job on the internet, because the published market addresses more junior roles. Interestingly enough it’s even less likely to land the desired role via traditional recruiters or head-hunters, because most of the time they don’t have the right order.  Fully 75% of executive jobs are in the unpublished market, and that’s where The Barrett Group focuses and that’s why we have a 90% success rate.

We are frequently confused with recruiters, Peter.  Why is that?

Peter Irish: It’s simple.  Most executives still do not know that services like ours exist.  They think their only option is to send a resume to an on-line ad or to a recruiter and hope for the best.  Properly coached, our clients do land jobs through these approaches—about 25% of them to be precise.  But it is far and away the unpublished market where most of out clients land, because there they can essentially participate in the creation of unique and interesting roles that fit the employer’s and the executive’s needs—a kind of co-creation, if you will.

Tomasz Lisewski: At the end of the day, it’s all about return on investment and there are multiple ways how our clients can recoup our fee.  Firstly we typically cut the time to land by half with 6 months as average, and landing just one month earlier already recovers our fee.  Secondly, we typically help to increase the client package by at least 10% at the offer negotiation stage.  So most people would call that a good return on investment.

Peter, as I’ve understood you, you feel that the unpublished market will remain vibrant essentially regardless of the pandemic and economic circumstances, is that correct?

Peter Irish: Yes, Marion.  That is our experience over more than 30 years here at the Barrett Group.  Whatever the economic situation, businesses continually reinvent themselves and adapt. And when they do, they alter their organizational structure and design.  They continuously need new and/or different executives with different skill sets or behavior profiles.  Relatively speaking, there is always a vast unpublished market for executive roles—if you know how to tap into it.

Yes, we see that in the Success Studies published on our website, too.  Peter, any closing thoughts for our audience?

Peter Irish: Tomasz is perfectly right.  I’ve used career change tactics five times in my life personally and even hired the Barrett Group in 2014.  We can help executives find their next opportunity much faster and at a higher compensation level than they can on their own. But I would like to emphasize the qualitative aspect.

Our Clarity Program©, the first or Targeting step helps people sift through their experience and their whole-life circumstances to really articulate what they want out of life.  It places their career in the context of their lives and not the other way around.  This leads to life-changing insights and ultimately much higher satisfaction. Not to mention better compensation. And that means our clients actually live better, more fruitful, and fulfilled lives.

We make the world a better place, one client at a time.

And that is extremely rewarding.

Tomasz, what closing thoughts might you have for our executive audience?

Tomasz Lisewski: Q1 and especially January are the best time to start the job search, because the market opens up, new budgets are available. Therefore if someone wants to change careers, the time is now.

Thank you both for this insightful discussion about executive market trends and I hope our audience has profited from so much condensed career advice.

I’m Marion Engelke signing off for the Barrett Group and wishing you well in 2022.

Also read: Engage With The Powerful Now

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