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Executive Outlook: Q1 2023 Predictions

Executive Outlook: Q1 2023 Predictions

Filter tag: Change Management and Executive Outplacement, Culture & Organisational Effectiveness, Leadership Capability, Strategies for Growth

There is no question that 2022 was yet another challenging year for businesses. Interest rates reached record-breaking levels, war broke out on European soil for the first time in decades, inflation hit a near 40 year high, and the disruptions that began in 2020 continued their ripple effects.

With a New Year ahead, the blank slate of the next 12 months presents fresh opportunity, but also holds unknown challenges. The challenges of last year did not cease to exist once the clock struck midnight, but what will they mean for us this year?

To help you prepare, we have compiled an overview of some of the latest key market statistics and issues to be aware of when navigating the market in Q1 2023.

 

Market Snapshot

Before making predictions about what lies ahead, it is important to get a sense of where the market currently stands. There are both positives and negatives to be found, as indicated by the latest ONS Labour Market Overview report. The estimate of employees on payroll for November 2022 showed a monthly increase of 107,000 on the previous month’s figures to a record 29.9 million, meaning employers continue to seek out full time employees with the right skills. This coincides with a decrease in the economic inactivity rate, which decreased by 0.2 to 21.5% in the latest report. The decrease was driven by those aged 50 to 64, mostly due to them leaving retirement and returning to the workforce amid economic turmoil.

At the same time, both vacancy and pay figures remain stagnant. In the latest ONS report, the estimated number of vacancies fell by 65,000 on the quarter to 1,187,000. Growth in average total pay (including bonuses) and regular pay (excluding bonuses) among employees for August to October 2022 held steady at 6.1%. Zooming in by sector, average regular pay growth for the private sector was 6.9% and 2.7% for the public sector. The ONS states that this is the largest growth rate seen for the private sector and is among the largest differences between the private sector and public sector growth rates we have seen outside of the pandemic period.

After adjusting for inflation, total and regular pay both fell by 2.7%. While this is slightly smaller than the record fall in real regular pay (3.0%) which we saw earlier in 2022, this end-of-year figure is among the largest decreases in growth since comparable records began.

 

2023 Predictions

It is not just pay that will be affected by the economic difficulties we continue to face. The fall in vacancies reflects a general caution across industries about the market and financial conditions, and the challenges will not stop there. Here are our predictions for what lies ahead between January and March 2023:

 

  • Recession fears to become a reality: For months now, the possibility of a recession and making preparations for one have been a key topic of discussion, however this has yet to be officially declared in the UK or across most of Europe. The UK experienced unexpected growth in November 2022 bolstered by the World Cup, leading some experts to question if the situation is really as dire as it seems. The German economy, Europe’s largest, stagnated in Q4 2022 but grew by 1.9% across the year, indicating the country may narrowly escape a recession.

Despite this optimistic blip, we are not quite out of the woods yet and recession is still a very real possibility. The latest forecast from World Bank forecasts that recession is a seemingly likely outcome for us, with their latest Global Economic Prospects report predicting that the global economy will grow by only 1.7% this year. This is a sharp fall from the 3% growth they predicted in their previous report published in mid-2022. The world’s three most prosperous economic regions—the US, the Eurozone, and China—are expected to experience a ‘period of pronounced weakness,’ with their downturns more significant than those experienced by poorer nations. After surging by 5.3% in 2021, growth in the world’s richest economies is likely to slow to just 0.5% in 2023. Therefore, despite the optimistic outlooks possessed by some, it is likely not a matter of if we will declare a recession, but a question of when.

As the conflict in Ukraine surges on, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to create ripples, and inflation rests at record heights.  We seem to get closer to an official declaration of recession every day. Therefore, it is certainly not out of the question that this announcement could be made in Q1. Should this happen, this would be the first time in over 80 years that two global recessions have occurred within the same decade. With the 2008-09 recession a recent memory, many businesses and executives will be proceeding with caution. Everything that happens now will be a result of recession wariness.

  • Hiring will slow and freezes will continue: Higher interest rates and inflation have hit businesses hard, while higher costs of living have reduced customer spend. This has led many businesses to restructure and tighten up their budgets to preserve their financial health as much as possible. Typically, staff is the first area impacted.

We have already seen cautionary shrinkage in the jobs market reflected in the previously mentioned ONS data, and that contraction will most likely continue throughout Q1. In fact—within the first two weeks of 2023 alone—Amazon, Salesforce, Goldman Sachs, Barratt Developments, JLL, and Liberty Steel have all announced redundancies and hiring freezes that will impact their UK workforces. Others have announced that they are considering making cuts in the near future. That said, expect a pause rather than mass redundancies. Data from Iwoca found that nearly four in five companies plan to keep staffing levels unchanged in 2023.

While this is certainly concerning, opportunities remain available, especially at the senior level as the need for strong relevant leadership increases.

  • Battling slowdown versus innovation: Businesses will face the uncertainty of the current slowdown whilst also having to navigate the challenge of needing to remain at the forefront of innovation disrupting every industry. Of course, the challenges in the market will impact each industry and sector in their own way. As one might expect, some will find balancing harder than others.

In the final quarter of last year, we saw a downturn in VC activity as investors opted to sit out the turbulence in the market. In the technology sector, which is central to the venture capital landscape, the last year has brought the steepest and widest drawdown for a generation. However, VC funds remain very well stocked to make rounds of new investments at much healthier valuations compared to one year ago. Predictions from London and Partners indicate the UK tech sector is showing resilience despite the challenges seen in many other major European cities, with sectors such as Fintech, Edtech and Gaming thriving.

In addition to this, for the first time, we saw every single subsector in Financial Services heading downward, with the biggest falls seen in Banking and Markets and Investment Management. Here at Rialto, our team also observed US employers made far more aggressive job cuts than their UK, European or Asian counterparts – almost without exception.  The focus on improving services for people remains high, as does the focus on aligning banking practices and technology to global/social problems. However, for the past decade—and maybe even longer than that—sustainability issues have remained as the key agenda item despite the cost-of-living crisis presently causing major threats to progress.

Retail is another sector we expect to have a particularly tough quarter ahead. Decreased customer spend, disrupted supply chains, and higher costs resulted in a December 2022 sales gain that was lower than the rate of inflation, meaning people likely bought less due to having to pay more. With no end to these challenges in sight, retail faces a tough Q1. We expect to see hiring freezes and redundancies here, but equally acquisitions and changes in leadership will be on radar to keep businesses afloat. Innovation will show itself in different ways, as retailers continue to go more ‘hybrid’ with their offerings beyond their normal inventory.

Manufacturing will also continue to struggle. The latest S&P Global/CIPS UK Composite PMI recorded falls in new manufacturing business for a fifth successive month, and as a result jobs were also lost for the third month running. In addition to this lack of new business and ongoing supply chain difficulties, the industry has been hit hard by the energy crisis. Costs have become a major concern. According to an industry survey conducted by Make UK and PwC, 70% of companies expect their energy costs to increase this year, with two-thirds saying they expect to cut production or jobs as a result. Rather than hiring new talent, manufacturing will likely turn to upskilling and retraining existing staff. 52% of respondents in the survey reported that they are engaging in this activity. Those looking to advance or enter manufacturing in Q1 or beyond will need to ensure that their skills are on par with those which firms will be instilling in their existing workforce.

 

Planning ahead

While we continue to teeter on the precipice of a recession, it is important to remain both optimistic and realistic. Yes, the coming months will be challenging, but will this really feel out of the ordinary given how much disruption has occurred in recent years? Just as we persevered through the pandemic and all of its ripple effects, we will adapt once again. We may escape recession, or we may not. Either way, opportunities will remain, and executives should continue to be at the forefront of market changes to reposition themselves, upskill, and retain visibility as a leader of the future.

If you are considering making a career move during this period, you may face new barriers but not total roadblocks. It is important to keep visible online and active among your networks. Your personal digital brand remains one of the most valuable weapons in your arsenal for attracting and obtaining new opportunities. Instead of shying away from the challenges in your industry, use them to develop your thought leadership. Showcase your expertise and apply your insight to real issues impacting your business, industry, or job function.

Double down on skills and work on developing capabilities that will benefit your current or potential employer when navigating current and future market conditions. Upskilling will likely be the go-to strategy for businesses this year when it comes to their talent and recruitment, so it is essential that your abilities are on par with what your target organisations are expecting from their current staff. To gain a real competitive advantage, develop skills that exceed these expectations.

As always, if you would like personalised, one-to-one support with navigating your career transition or would like to explore our specialised capability of securing c-suite decision maker meetings for you in any industry globally, our team can help. Get in touch with us to discuss our bespoke programmes for personal digital branding and executive career transition.

 

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