Consultancies may need to review their recruitment strategies and think more laterally to ensure that they’re well equipped for the future – especially if the market levels out this year, as it is likely to do

Karina Beasley Managing Director, Gabriele Skelton
Consultancies may need to review their recruitment strategies and think more laterally to ensure that they’re well equipped for the future – especially if the market levels out this year, as it is likely to do

If 2008 is anything like last year, then most of us will be very happy people. In 2007 we saw dynamic market conditions across branding, identity, communications, packaging and retail, and, of course, the continually growing digital market. The shift in client spend, particularly in on-line branding, advertising and marketing, has been phenomenal and there’s fantastic work out there that deserves huge applause.

Flexibility is the way ahead
The year 2008 might see these conditions level out, but we don’t expect there to be a massive drop – and let’s not talk ourselves into it either. As demand from clients continues to be strong, it is important to remain focused and adapt to their needs, and for consultancies to look at different people for their teams who can add value and directly address these needs.

This also includes the way we address the tight labour market and what is undoubtedly a ‘candidate and skills shortage’. Not only should consultancies try to be more open, adaptable and sometimes adventurous in looking for potential talent, they also need to nurture their existing staff to develop their next generation.

Personal development and training is vital to the marketplace and will help attract new talent and retain the best. We have to be proactive and keep thinking ahead.

Take stock of your staff
The freelance market has been very buoyant, but if clients do tighten their belts and their budgets, this could have a speedy effect on the way some consultancies use their freelance resource pool. So it is absolutely vital to ensure that you have a stable, permanent workforce, too.

Freelances should, meanwhile, be prepared to be more flexible if the going gets tough, but on the other hand, we see areas such as digital design continuing to go from strength to strength, with clients diverting more and more of their spend on-line, so the freelance market here should remain fairly stable.

Look to the future
This year will undoubtedly be a year for great design, too. There’s a lot of strong creative talent out there combined with a very good mix of large, medium-sized and small consultancies, and there’s a healthier balance between groups and independents than there were three or four years ago.

From our viewpoint as recruiters, consultancies remain very selective and more focused now than ever before on hiring the best talent – but perhaps they are not being lateral enough to ensure that they have sufficient staff for future growth. If 2008 proves as positive as 2007 was, they may find they need to broaden their criteria when recruiting, particularly at middleweight and senior levels.

Take on graduates
There is also good creative talent coming through at graduate level, but it’s not always properly exploited. We need to bring in more graduates, both on the creative and management sides, or there won’t be a chance to bounce back from the current skills shortage in years to come, which will impact negatively on growing businesses and the health of the industry generally.

Graduate recruitment means making an investment in time, but the medium- to long-term rewards are huge. It’s important that more consultancies recognise this and make space for graduates in their plans for 2008 and beyond.

We’ve talked with many of our clients about how they will work to achieve their targets in 2008. It’s loud and clear that they have to help their clients make their brands work even harder in order to retain market share, particularly if there’s a slowdown in the economy. Brand loyalty will be the key to success over the next year or so. And this is where design and marketing will play such a vital role. Building on brand equity is the only way to ensure that you reap the rewards once the economy bounces back.

Think own-brand
The luxury market will continue to profit, as will the bottom end of the market – as consumers become more conscious of what’s in their pockets, they will turn to more value for money, such as supermarkets’ own-brands. So there’s the opportunity for designers to keep working on own-brand packaging, product development and innovation.

Marketing is key
Retail has taken a knock over the Christmas period, but despite the ‘gloomy’ tales that are plastered all over the newspapers and the pink pages reporting dips in profit, it remains a market where design continues to play an important role to keep it buoyant.

Not in every area, of course, but in terms of branding and marketing, as well as on-line sales and marketing, the potential is huge. It’s a market that has to innovate and inspire to ensure the consumer remains loyal.

So here’s to a fruitful, but possibly leaner, 2008 and wishing everyone all the success that they deserve. We’re looking forward to the year ahead and to seeing more fabulous ideas and work.

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