Good bosses at a premium

The adage is “no one is indispensable”, but the more senior you are in an organisation, the harder it is to replace you, according to the latest figures from the Recruitment Confidence Index.

Out of those firms expecting to recruit to the board over the next six months, three in five - 60% - are expecting trouble. A similar figure - 57% - expect to have problems recruiting to other senior posts. However, slightly fewer companies, 44%, predict difficulties finding good junior managers and just under one third expect to have trouble filling graduate jobs.

Commenting on this quarter's findings, Professor Shaun Tyson of Cranfield School of Management said: "Employers are looking for board directors and senior managers who can deliver immediately. They want performance rather than potential; they want managers with great skills and a track record. The problem is there aren't many such managers on the market."

While the downturn in the economy should in theory make recruitment easier, in the case of senior managers it might be having the opposite affect. Professor Tyson said: "The degree of uncertainty in the business environment should be making firms especially careful about the senior people they take on. Recruiting the wrong director can make a big difference to the bottom line so businesses cannot afford to make mistakes."

Economic insecurity could also mean that directors are reluctant to risk a job change. Stephanie Richards, recruitment research manager at the Daily Telegraph, said: "It's hard to persuade senior people to move at the moment. Job insecurity is such that people at all levels are holding tight and staying put in case things get worse."

Business confidence remains an issue for employers. This quarter's RCI findings show that it has plummeted over the past year. It now stands at a net figure of -5%, down from +37% last summer.

However, lack of confidence does not appear to have hit recruitment expectations. The main RCI index, which predicts changes in recruitment activity now stands at 125 for all staff compared with 113 three months ago. However, nearly half of respondents - 43% - said there would be no change in their recruitment activity.

Professor Shaun Tyson said: "War with Iraq may be over but there is still a great deal of uncertainty out there. Confidence is down and recruitment is just bumping along with changes taking place at the margins."

Set up nearly four years ago by Cranfield School of Management and the Daily Telegraph to measure employers' recruitment expectations and business confidence, the Recruitment Confidence Index now attracts responses from nearly 2,000 employers in the public and private sectors and is one of a basket of measures employers use to test the health of the economy.


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