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2016 - How will it shape 2017?

Fusion People's South Western property expert, Nick Grant, takes a look at how the legacy of 2016 will continue to impact the year ahead.

It goes without saying that for my industry and I to continue to successfully deliver in our job there has to be an awareness of how economic and political topics are shaping decision making in respect of companies’ plans for growth.

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2016 was a year with some unexpected political. Brexit caused a mixed reaction the length and breadth of the UK among developers and consultancies with what to do next about staffing strategies. Simultaneously, staff largely wanted a reaction from their employers in regards to staff retention, structuring and employment.  

Most companies took a cautious strategy delivering a message to existing staff that their jobs were safe but they would not be adding to the headcount this side of the New Year.  By contrast a few started the process of reducing bottom line and restructuring hierarchies as well as reducing overheads where possible.

For those that continued to hire, the emphasis was very much to do so for commercial purposes. A new network or new pipeline that could add value to a business was largely favoured over a technical ability to deliver on projects.  Companies appeared to want and in some cases need staff to become more commercial in the way they work, encouraging a focus on developing new business opportunities.  

This latter strategy inevitably involves people working away from the office more often as they look to gain external face time in the market. Therefore, better communication is needed between employers and employees as internal face time is reduced.  Modern technology obviously helps deliver on the communication front, but it was interesting to hear that the Brexit result itself in some cases caused employers to communicate and engage more often with their staff.  In a time of uncertain economic conditions, staff retention is not always easy but can be vital for future success.

But what about the staff themselves?  

There was understandably more caution taken by individuals in agreeing to take a new role.  People were adopting a more targeted approach to their next move and wanting to only speak and meet with specific companies.  There was a big demand from people within consultancies to move to client side organisations as this was seen by some as a safer option.  This was a demand that emerged regardless of whether individuals were in the job market as a result of Brexit, a result of a takeover or merger, or whether they were secure in their role but open to new opportunities. 

There was also an increase in the demand to work in the regions.  After gaining invaluable experience in London people seemingly are looking to return to their roots with long term security and work- life balance becoming more of a focus than a higher earning capacity. That said, on the financial side there was a slight shift towards employer pension contributions being used as a heavy negotiating tool when structuring new employee’s remuneration packages. Uncertainty around how much people will get in the future from their State Pension pot, a favourable employer contribution has never looked like a better employee incentive and benefit. 

So to roll this all over into 2017 and throw in more political events. 

The first quarter is likely to see the UK trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty as well as the Dutch general election in March. The French presidential election will conclude in May and then the German federal election later in the year.  With these in mind will we see more companies in property, planning and development err on the side of caution as we await these outcomes in 2017? 

In discussing these events with key figures in the property, planning and development sectors the message seems to be that the majority of companies will look to strengthen their offering through the investment in hiring staff to help deliver long term growth.  But, much like the property industry itself it has to be the right investment and one that can generate a sufficient return on investment.  Commercially minded hires are likely to be central to these strategies throughout 2017.

Companies seemingly look to have staff spend less time tied to a desk and instead out of the office seeking to identify new business opportunities or bring new opportunities to them.  

As it is a period of unknown we are entering in 2017, the majority will not try and predict any political and economic outcomes- that lesson was learned in 2016. Instead, relationships and networks will be key. 

For those individuals and companies that buy into the adage “the more work you put in the more you get out” the signs are there that it will doubtless be ‘business as usual’ in 2017.


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