Overall, the first half of 2011 brought about a surprisingly robust period for retained executive search in Europe. The second half of the year ushered in uncertainty about the future.

The persistence of the eurozone crisis in particular casts a large shadow on the macroeconomic environment, fueling extreme caution throughout the executive search profession and across Europe.

But it is not all bleak circumstances in Europe. Performance in Germany bodes extremely well. There still exists high demand for talent in major industrial sectors to meet the new needs and expectations of emerging economies. There is caution still even in Germany, though--the country's future growth may be impacted by a relative decline of its exports.

In the UK, still Europe's leading market for executive search services, the climate is also much stronger than the rest of Europe. 2011 was a good year for retained search in the UK, with the exception of declines in certain major sectors, such as financial services.

The situation in Northern Europe (Scandinavia and Poland) and Central Europe (Switzerland, Austria) remains fair for the retained search industry, with a somewhat more positive outlook than in France, where AESC member consultants concurred that they have little visibility and are coping with uncertainty for the future.

It appears that the current market for senior talent recruitment in Hungary is at a standstill--the situation in the Czech Republic, Romania, and Bulgaria doesn't fare any better.

Of course, it is no secret that the main casualties of the eurozone crisis are Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland. In many cases, senior executives based in those countries have accepted a reduction in compensation by up to 40%. Since the inception of the eurozone crisis, the market for executive search has also shrunk by about a third.

Even though the climate in Europe is extremely difficult right now and senior executives there are faced with many uncertainties, there are still options. Senior-level executives in Europe looking for opportunities will want to focus attention away from eroding sectors like financial services and instead on what sectors are stronger and still more competitive. Throughout January, BlueSteps will be focusing on executives in transition. For European executives, cross-border opportunities and growth in emerging markets are also possibilities to consider.


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This article was written by Christophe de Callatay from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).


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