Agencies in 'recruitment crisis' as most corporate comms pros favour in-house

Seven in 10 corporate comms professionals say in-house is likely to be their next destination if they move job, with just 11 per cent preferring an agency role, new research suggests.

(Image: Zia Soleil via Getty Images)
(Image: Zia Soleil via Getty Images)

Eight per cent of corporate communications professionals expect their next position will be outside the industry, according to the survey of 400 of them by The Works Search, the recruitment firm focused on corporate and financial comms. Seven per cent expect to go freelance or be self-employed in their next role, and four per cent think they will set up their own agency.

Sarah Leembruggen, managing director of The Works Search, said: "Year on year, we've seen a shift towards in-house and it's only getting more desirable." It means the pool of corporate comms talent for agencies is "incredibly small".

"Agencies are having a hiring crisis because only 11 per cent of corporate comms professionals are interested in working in agencies compared to 69 per cent wanting in-house roles (the other 19 per cent want to leave the industry or freelance). This 11 per cent isn’t just corporate comms, it will be similar across all the agencies.

"In-house is incredibly attractive and agencies have stiff competition – they are not competing with other agencies for talent, they are competing against big corporates who are offering better pay increases, bigger bonuses and higher-value company benefits.

"The grass is greener, the desire is strong and agencies are losing talent at all levels to in-house comms teams. The real question is – what are they doing about it as many haven’t woken up to the problem?"

Leembruggen said the pandemic has had little impact on the trend: "In fact, in-house teams have been more robust compared to agencies during the pandemic, increasing the pull factor."

The survey was carried out in March. Of those who responded, 65 per cent worked in-house and 35 per cent agency-side, while 79 per cent work in Greater London, 12 per cent elsewhere in the UK, and nine per cent in other countries.

The research is taken from The Works Search's annual 'Salary Guide'. As PRWeek reported last Monday, the study found that corporate comms salary growth fell during 2020, and agency staff were nearly twice as likely as those in-house to have taken a pay cut. It also found that women in the sector have borne the financial brunt.

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