Many reasons to be cheerful on the executive employment front

Written by: Steve Playford
Published on: 23 Jan 2016

As the great and the good, plus a lot of actors and hangers-on, gathered in Davos for the annual shindig that is the World Economic Summit, PwC has announced that 84% of UK executives are upbeat about 2016.

More specifically, from the perspective, c. 67% of said bosses expect they will employ more people this year. This is a substantial increase on the figure from last year, which was 49%, and puts the UK well ahead of any other European country and third only to India and Mexico in the world.

Good intentions, however, are not always realised.  The PwC survey did admit that while the 84% figure was very good, it was actually a slight decrease compared to the previous year.  However, not surprisingly, when reported on the business pages, the press prefer to highlight the positive aspects of this research.  A headline along the lines of “Decrease in confidence amongst Chief Execs” sends a rather different picture to the reader…

PwC does acknowledge that the international situation is more concerning.  Only 30% of execs in their survey believe the global economy will improve, compared to 41% in 2015 and the numbers expecting an absolute decline grew to 23% from 18% in 2014 (and, significantly, from none in 2013).  There is no doubt that depressing news about impending disaster (or at least another downturn) is not hard to find.

Yet let’s accentuate the positive. PwC’s findings mirror what we find at  We speak to recruiters every day, and like them we’re constantly interested in how their markets are performing and what the prospects will be.  In general, over the first few weeks of this new year, and while acknowledging the undoubted skills shortages that exist in a number of key areas (engineering, IT, teaching, etc.), there is a degree of optimism.  We also see this elsewhere in the recruitment/business trade press.  For example, as reported in Recruitment International, two-thirds of UK FDs are optimistic about 2016 and “budgets for recruitment and staff should see the biggest increase (for 55% of companies).”  The Chambers of Commerce too see signs to be optimistic in the East Midlands while Manpower has noted similar prospects in the West Midlands while in Scotland (reported by City AM/Business Reporter) typical hourly wages have, for the first time ever, risen to be above those in England and as a consequence “action to boost employment should be key in this year’s Holyrood election.”

There are many reasons to be optimistic, and equally many to err on the side of caution, however, as PwC’s chairman said, “It is encouraging that UK business leaders are … planning to invest in creating new jobs and developing their people.”

Steve Playford, Global Director,