Plans to expand staffing levels have now been recorded for three successive quarters, signalling progressively stronger conviction in employment growth expectations.

After making substantial cuts to their marketing departments over the course of the pandemic, the number of marketers planning to make new hires over the next three months has once again grown, according to data gathered exclusively for Marketing Week.

In fact, almost half (47%) of respondents to the IPA Bellwether report say they plan to recruit additional staff over the next three months, compared with just under 8% anticipating job losses at their firms.

The resulting net balance of 38.7% signals the strongest hiring intentions since employment prospects were first recorded in the third quarter of 2016.

Bellwether panel members are asked whether they expect employment levels at their firms to be higher, the same or lower in three months’ time when compared with those at present.

Plans to expand staffing levels have now been recorded for three successive quarters, rising from a net balance of 17.9% in the first quarter of 2021 to 32.8% in the second quarter and signalling progressively stronger conviction in employment growth expectations.

Higher Same Lower Net +/-
Q2 2020 5.2% 39.4% 55.5% -50.3%
Q3 2020 12.4% 43.8% 43.8% -31.5%
Q4 2020 21.8% 55.3% 22.9% -1.2%
Q1 2021 29.9% 58.1% 12.0% +17.9%
Q2 2021 42.6% 47.5% 9.8% +32.8%
Q3 2021 46.6% 45.5% 7.9% +38.7%

According to the report, the latest results are particularly “encouraging” given the data was collected throughout a quarter in which the UK furlough scheme has petered out.

Such strong hiring intentions also reflect high levels of competition for staff, the report says. “This was reinforced by anecdotal evidence from our Bellwether panel members, with many expressing difficulties in finding suitably-skilled candidates to take on vacant roles”.

Earlier this year, the 2021 Marketing Week Career and Salary Survey painted a grim picture of the impact Covid-19 has had on marketers’ careers. One in 10 marketers were made redundant over 2020, while 12.7% were put on furlough.

But with the economy now almost entirely reopened, the sector has bounced back to growth, with recruiters reporting a substantial rise in the number of marketing opportunities available.‘A hot commodity’: Why brands are struggling to hire marketing specialists

The six months to August 2021 saw a 302% rise in opportunities for marketers compared to the same period in 2020, according to data gathered for Marketing Week by job site Reed. Further investigation found executive search firms and recruitment agencies covering the marketing sector have been experiencing the same trend, as employers look to close skill gaps and drive post-pandemic growth.

Demand is particularly strong for marketers with digital and ecommerce skills following the pandemic’s online boom. However, so high is that demand that marketing bosses and recruitment specialists have been finding it difficult to hire quality talent.

Purplebricks CMO Ben Carter told Marketing Week earlier this month that this is a challenge he and his peers at other brands are currently seeing take its toll.

“It’s hard to get specialist marketers at the moment,” Carter said. “The market is very hot and very competitive, particularly around performance.”

In the battle to attract talent, many businesses are offering increased remuneration packages to marketers, with some upping senior salaries by as much as 50% according to one recruitment specialist. Others are inviting senior marketing operators to participate in share schemes or company long-term incentive plans (LTIPs) at an unprecedented level.

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