Survey shows 43% of designers waiting for end of recession to change job

Once the UK’s recession comes to an end, up to 38 per cent of staff at UK design consultancies will flood the job market, according to new research.

A survey of 567 clients of recruitment agency Gabriele Skelton reveals that 19 per cent of executive-level bosses, 36 per cent of directors, 53 per cent of managers and 47 per cent of co-ordinators and assistants intend to move to other companies when the recession ends.

About 43 per cent of designers are planning on leaving their current jobs. This is in contrast to strategists, of which 21 per cent indicated they could move elsewhere.

Ian Cochrane, chairman of management consultancy Tice Group, says that the results don’t surprise him. ‘People in consultancies are seeing colleagues disappear, there has been a hold on salaries and no bonuses given out, and consequently people are not happy. What they don’t realise is that the situation is the same everywhere else as in their current consultancies.’

The survey asked respondents to rank the attributes they consider to be most important at their consultancies. A strong management team which shows ‘leadership’ is highlighted as the most important characteristic possessed by a consultancy in the eyes of its employees. This is according to 100 per cent of the survey’s respondents.

Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands says, ‘In a world of financial uncertainty employees need reassurance, so faith in leadership is unsurprisingly top of the agenda.’

A consensus of 99.4 per cent suggests that trusting employees to make decisions is key.

From a list of 22 attributes put to respondents, all were seen to be of importance, although focusing on ‘farming existing clients’ came out bottom, with 88.8 per cent in agreement. Attempting to ‘provide job security’ was ranked 18th, with 95.3 per cent agreeing this is important.

Sands says, ‘The culture and learning opportunities always come ahead of financial benefits, as most people think about long-term benefits ahead of short-term gain.’

The survey highlights what it calls ‘delivery gaps’ between the importance of a given attribute – according to respondents – compared with their perceptions of how well their consultancies perform in that area.

Unsurprisingly, the survey finds that discontented respondents who intend to change job perceive a bigger delivery gap than those who wish to stay. Cochrane concludes, ‘It’s been a tough year for everyone, but there will always be pockets of people who react like this. One big contract win could see a group through, but at the end of that the group will still feel the cold winds of recession.’

He says, ‘We’re no different from the rest of British industry. Gordon Brown may tell us that we’re out of recession soon, but there’ll still be a 12-month lag following our recovery, in which consultancies will have to be run just as tightly.’

Separate research released this week, by executive recruitment consultant Interexec, indicates that the number of non-executive directors is on the rise. It finds that the role ‘brings balance and impartiality to boards’.

Other findings of the survey

  • 19% of respondents use social networking sites to disseminate their opinions about work
  • 23% of designers and 21% of strategists divulge their thoughts about work on social networking sites
  • Staff ‘who are comfortable writing about their work on social networking sites’ could be used to a group’s benefit by creating positive word of mouth, as long as the consultancy meets employee expectations

Source: Design Industry Voices Report 2009 by Fairley and Associates,
Gabriele Skelton and On Pointe Marketing, published 2 December

Hide Comments (4)Show Comments (4)
  • Stephanie Brown November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    For the full report on Design Industry Voices 2009 by Fairley & Associates, Gabriele Skelton and On Pointe Marketing please go to:

  • Rachel Fairley November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    This article is based on a report released today and available to download from

    Employees across the industry agree on what makes a good agency and on how their agencies are letting them down. For two-fifths, enough is enough – which means this is not an isolated problem. It isn’t about money; everyone knows money is tight. It is about respect and appreciation. Agencies must empower their managers to lead, coach and nurture their teams so employees are involved in ensuring their agency’s and their personal success.

    It is a foolish agency that ignores such specific feedback from employees they may wish to keep or attract.

  • Chris Wilson November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that ‘the situation is the same everywhere’. The creative industry is a diverse one, and I see smaller, more nimbler agencies really gearing up their workforce for 2010: hiring ‘bargains’ from the bigger agencies. This is especially true in digital or business-to-business, where the market is short of good people.
    Chris Wilson, Chairman of the Association of B2B Agencies.

  • Stephanie Brown November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    In this article, Ian Cochrane suggests that “pockets of people” are demoralised because “there has been a hold on salaries and no bonuses given out” and that they don’t understand “that the situation is the same everywhere else as in their current consultancies.”
    A 12% response rate to the survey is more than a representative sample of the UK design and digital industries so the 38% of respondents who intend to change job when the recession ends can hardly be dismissed as a “pocket”. Most agencies have downsized to a core staff and departures on this scale will affect relationships with clients, who may decide to look elsewhere for design services. Agencies also risk being too stretched to seize new opportunities.
    In the survey, employees, whether from small or large companies, agree what makes a good agency. They have made it clear that it isn’t about money; it is about respect and appreciation and having a management team that demonstrates strong leadership skills.
    It is a brave agency that ignores such specific feedback from employees they wish to keep or attract; feedback 19% respondents share freely on social networking sites.
    Rachel Fairley, Fairley & Associates; Karina Beasley, Gabriele Skelton; Stef Brown, On Pointe Marketing

  • Post a comment

Latest articles