FMCG Job Landscape Q1

FMCG Job Landscape Q1

With 2023 having started off unnervingly slowly in the wake of the preceding economic turmoil, when the first two weeks of 2024 began in the same vein, I must admit I was starting to fear the worst!

As it turns out, though, the world and their dog had decided that returning to work on the 2nd Jan was too much to face so had opted to take the entire week off to recover from their festivities. With the second week in Jan adopting the role of the ‘easing your way back into work’ period, it wasn’t until the third week that things started to heat up and thankfully it’s continued along that path.

That’s not to say that the job space is now firing on all cylinders, in fact there are signs the overall market is stalling with the number of vacancies dropping for the 18th time in a row. But there are conjectures that can be made as to why our experiences at Signature appear to be bucking those of the broader job-space trends.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that in times of economic constriction, many businesses focus their efforts on tightening up on the bottom line, however, when they can start to envisage life after the doom and gloom, their focus shifts towards topline growth. Any positive movement in the commercial job space, therefore, can often been seen as the green shoots of wider market optimism.

Given that at Signature, we recruit predominantly in the commercial functions of FMCG, it would be nice to think that our promising start to the year is an indication of this sentiment and a suggestion that we are entering the early stages of sustained economic growth. 

Secondly, though, and given our hyper-specialism & premium approach, the increased demand for our service may suggest that prior attempts that businesses have made to look for low-hanging-fruit to fill their vacancies have failed, and we are witnessing symptoms indicative of a challenging job space in which to recruit.

In truth, I suspect that a bit of both are at play. As far as global economic predictions go, there are probably countless more qualified than me who we can look to for direction. From  the point of view of specialist recruitment, however, there are few with their finger as firmly on the pulse as ours is at Signature.

One of the main reasons behind this challenging recruitment environment, I suspect, is the huge squeeze on high-performing candidates. In the FMCG industry we’ve long seen declining talent pools. You just have to trawl The Grocer’s archive of articles to see how they’ve been warning of this for over a decade. More recently, however, we’ve seen this become constricted even tighter as workers re-evaluate their life priorities and focus their attentions on ‘balance’ over ‘progression’.

This is doubly impactful with some taking themselves out of the running altogether by seeking lower-pressure employment, whilst others have sleep-walked towards a knowledge gap by shunning the work environment in favour of fully remote roles.

Unpopular opinion alert! Apologies to those that won’t hear anything said against remote working, but business preference is shifting back to higher levels of in-person interaction and it’s not because they want higher office costs! It’s largely because the knowledge-share that flourished with in-person collaboration, has turned to a knowledge drain with the shift to isolated working practices.

If you’re part of the increasingly elite few who are a little bit ‘old-school’ in your work ethic and are happy to drag yourself into the office reasonably frequently, you are now starting to display the characteristics of a ‘Unicorn Candidate’ and you’re in high demand!

The challenge we’re seeing at the moment though, is that businesses aren’t prepared to make compromises on the quality of candidate that they want for their business, and the economic uncertainty is providing the perfect excuse to adopt the wait-and-see approach rather than settle for those who they feel doesn’t quite make the grade.

‘Unicorn candidates’ are being snapped up (and often aggressively counter-offered as well!), but any compromises that are required as a result of talent shortages are currently requiring reciprocated compromises from candidates if a deal is to be struck. With both sides being increasingly stubborn, this is contributing towards a stagnating job market.

It’s challenging all round, but this is where detail, specialism, transparency, and credibility is required if job opportunities are to be brokered in the current climate, which is why I suspect we are being increasingly called upon by clients and candidates alike.

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