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Professional Services Recruitment Market Update - December 2021

Published on 17th December 2021

With 2021 drawing to a close, it is a great time to reflect on the last 12 months within Professional Services and look forward to what 2022 will bring.

It feels extraordinary to think that 12 months ago we were in lockdown and the market, whilst recovering from the short, sharp shock of the first lockdown, was starting to pick up.

Roll forward 12 months and we are in one of the busiest markets that I have EVER seen in professional services in my career.

How was professional services recruitment in 2021?

2021 was a tale of two halves. H1 saw the recovery starting to take place while H2 was extremely busy and in a job rich, candidate short market.

Many firms were fighting it out to retain, attract and recruit talent. Attempts by professional services firms to recruit staff from competitors saw a sharp increase in pay rises across the industry. There was a significant rise in work and revenues throughout professional services, with many firms reporting record profits.  

How the pandemic impacted business services teams

Throughout the pandemic,  business services functions became the 'go to' for Partners and business leaders as companies had to quickly pivot and adapt to the challenges that were being thrown at them.

The reliance on and importance of these functions really pushed these roles to the forefront and it was interesting to see the importance and impact that Business Development, Marketing, Communications, Accountants and HR professionals had on the day to day operational success of firms.

Having spoken to a number of BD, Marketing and Communications Directors over the last year, the relationships they have with Partners has become even stronger and they predict that this will continue as their roles continue to develop.

Key trends

The last 12 months has seen areas such as Corporate Finance and M&A explode.

There have been a high number of deals and this looks set to continue in 2022.

Within the insolvency & restructuring area, restructuring continues to be busier than insolvency.

With the unprecedented financial support for businesses from the Government, this is not surprising and it looks like this trend will continue into H1 2022, particularly if, with the current restrictions and the high number of Covid cases due to the new Omicron variant, some form of Government support for hospitality is announced.

The increase in forensic accounting has been interesting to see.

As more checks and investigations start to happen on those companies that claimed furlough and smaller firms claiming bounce back loans, this will be an area that will continue to grow.

What do jobseekers care most about?

Candidates are increasingly looking at what firms stand for when making their decisions to either stay at or move to a new firm.

Opportunities for progression are important.

The firm's culture, commitment to wellbeing and belief in diversity and inclusion also matter to jobseekers.

A recent survey showed that around 1 in 5 workers have either left or are considering leaving their current roles. These figures quickly grow to 1 in 3 within the youngest cohort of workers. The reasons cited were that they wanted more training and career development opportunities in 2022 and that they would prioritise firms who offered a strong training and upskilling programme.

Due to the lack of available talent, the power dynamic has transferred from the employer to the employee. People increasingly care about the culture of the firm they work for. They are passionate about doing a job well and working for a firm that provides the best levels of service to clients.

People also want to work with good people.

They want praise and recognition which enhances job satisfaction and they want clarity around a firm's values and to see people living and breathing these values.

Predictions for 2022

I think that 2022 will bring an even greater awareness of what is important to employees as firms continue to adapt to the changing, fluid working models that many people now want.

With the latest recommendation from the Government to work from home where possible, we will be entering into the new year once again with relatively few people back in the office. We know that this can work and whilst not ideal for collaboration, both employees and employers have worked hard to find ways to adapt.

2022 will see an explosion in jobs and there will be a continuation of a shortage of talent.

Firms need to ensure that they are offering what their employees need in order to retain talent.

A positive, supportive working environment with clear progression for each individual and a strong culture incorporating health and wellbeing and a diverse and inclusive culture is essential. Firms that don’t provide this will struggle to retain and attract new talent.

When recruiting new employees, speed is of the essence.

The likelihood is that a candidate you are interested in will be interviewing with another firm. If you can move your interview processes through in a timely manner and through to offer stage, making your best offer, you are more likely to secure the talent you need to help move the firm forward.​

2022 is set to be a busy and exciting year within Professional Services, I look forward to seeing the continued growth within the sector and in continuing to Build Better Futures for our employees, candidates and clients.