2023, a year of two halves

If the first half of 2023 for permanent appointments can be described as ‘hot’, the second half was ‘luke-warm’, with slower decision-making being the primary factor. Wage inflation for those people we helped into new roles in H1 was 21% on average, and in some cases over 50%. For those we helped in H2, wage inflation was down slightly to an average of 16%.

We experienced the strongest demand for interims in more than five years. Kate Dyer wrote about this here. The demand for interims was largely driven by project work, as well as “proof of concept” hires i.e. companies formulating a new role and trying someone in it for 12-18 months before committing to making it a permanent position.

We worked with a number of corporate affairs directors over the year on projects to create high performing teams. These projects included interviews with key stakeholders for honest feedback on how the function is perceived and what colleagues wanted from corporate affairs; benchmarking the function against comparable organisations; and helping to create a target operating model. To support the work we do in this area, Lauren Tarbit has been studying Organisational Design and Strategic Transformation at Cranfield University, and we’ll be publishing a paper on the subject early in the new year.

We have partnered with leadership coach Maxine Taylor to support recently appointed corporate affairs directors and other senior communications leaders, both when they start their new roles and beyond. Everyone placed by Birchwood Knight will have the opportunity to meet Maxine and see how she can support them as they prepare and settle into their new role, or to discuss how they are getting on.

Approximately 20% of our search work this year has extended beyond the UK, including Austria, Canada, Singapore, Switzerland and the USA. We are also very pleased to have partnered with Lucinda Barber in Hong Kong to deepen our capability in Asia-Pacific and improve the advice and support we can offer communications leaders looking to move internationally.

One of our strengths as a firm is that we’re sector agnostic. This means we have a broad network. That said, one industry we know particularly well is private equity, and this year we partnered with reputation management consultancy Nepean to find out how PE firms approach communications. We spoke with more than 20 corporate affairs directors at some of the leading PE firms and identified four key themes. You can read more in this blog “Soft Capital – The Value of Reputation in Private Equity” or get in touch to request a copy of the full report.

We finish the year in good spirits and optimistic for 2024, our 15th year in business.


13th December 2023

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