2020 was an interesting year for local government executive recruitment, with the sector heavily focused on dealing with COVID-19 and ensuring service continuity, community well-being and safety. Surprisingly though, this only had a smallish impact on recruiting. The number of £70k+ roles advertised across The MJ portfolio in 2020 did fall, but only by 14%, with around 858 roles advertised in 2020, compared to 996 in 2019.
There have been notable shifts. For instance, place-based roles declined in 2020 compared to 2019 but corporate services roles rose by 6% with gains in communications (+250%), HR/OD (+50%) and change and transformation (+20%).
This makes sense. The importance of communication professionals sharing key messages with staff, communities, businesses and partners has naturally been recognised.
COVID triggered challenges around ensuring service continuity amid different community needs. Accordingly, service delivery models changed in 2020. Add to this, the financial strains that 2020 put on local government and the rise in change and transformation opportunities makes sense.
HR/OD roles and opportunities also increased, with demand for OD expertise to tackle cultural transformation, D&I and employee support. Many authorities are now rightly revisiting their Employer Value Proposition, vision and values, to attract and retain high-calibre diverse individuals.
I predict ongoing demand for OD, transformation/change and D&I roles plus a resurgence in place-based recruitment.
There’s also bound to be career movement post-elections as many executives displayed great loyalty in staying in roles or deferring retirements. But perhaps the elections themselves will be deferred?
Whatever happens, it’s sure to be another interesting year. Stay safe.
Ben Cox is director of executive search at Penna