Iain Atkinson lives and breathes Scotland. It’s where he went to university. It’s where he started his first job. It’s where he’s built up a name for himself in the executive recruitment space. It’s where he volunteers each month to help the homeless. Yet, as much as he loves Scotland, he’ll never forgets his Northern Irish roots.
Calm and considered, Iain knows that his words carry weight, so he chooses them wisely. With 16 years’ experience placing senior leaders across the technical markets, many of his clients have become reliant on him for the latest market intelligence – ranging from business trends, to politics, to board-level governance.
To catch a glimpse of Edinburgh’s bustling business landscape, and to hear how the executive search market is changing, we caught up with Iain over a coffee.
Smooth sailing in choppy waters.
Scotland’s political environment is far from fixed, with a second independence referendum being discussed again, and talks of leveraging independence post-Brexit – political chatter that’s having a real impact on the country’s investment marketplace.
“We have an aging demographic, and we’re in the midst of a skills shortage, so finding fresh talent has become increasingly challenging,” says Iain, who despite these challenges, insists the recruitment market is steady.
“Organisations are taking a little longer to make decisions, and they’re a little more cautious in general, but otherwise it’s largely business as usual.”
One new trend that has emerged is the growing popularity of regional boards, he says.
“Recognising the value of local knowledge, many organisations are now appointing regional boards rather than having people parachute in from HQ to tell everyone what’s what.”
The missing generation of emerging leaders.
It may have been 10 years since the recession, but the 2007/2008 financial crisis has resulted in a missing generation of emerging leaders, says Iain.
“The next generation of leaders that should be stepping up and taking the reins right now simply doesn’t exist,” Iain explains. “This is something taking place across most industries, but it is particularly apparent within the technical markets.”
“To ensure organisations are equipped with the next tier of leaders, it’s crucial that organisations invest in acquiring and supporting existing talent through processes like succession-planning and coaching.”
“To meet immediate demand, many organisations are targeting the expat workforce returning home from the likes of Australia, UAE, the Americas and the Far East.”
In this era of political and economic uncertainty, organisations need leaders with a firm vision, says Iain.
“Organisations desperately need leaders that can supply a steady ship for their team and their customers to help navigate through the murky waters that lie ahead – and for that, they’ll need to be able to influence, motivate and inspire.”
What about STEM?
With Brexit right around the corner, a growing skills shortage could pose big problems for the UK as a whole – but for Scotland’s STEM sector (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), it’s something that deserves immediate attention.
“There’s a heavy focus in Scotland right now to encourage young people to pursue a career in STEM. With respect to the numerous organisations attempting to correct this imbalance, many STEM-related efforts are disjointed and misaligned – a more collaborative approach is needed to have a long-lasting impact.”
This is particularly true for both the construction and engineering sectors, says Iain. “The construction industry still has a poor reputation – with many people viewing it as a limited career path. As a result, parents are often reluctant to send their children into this line of work.”
“This perception is largely unjust and needs to be lifted. Construction is a rapidly growing industry with a very broad range of career opportunities, giving people the ability to excel and be involved in some of the most challenging engineering projects being developed throughout the country.”
For more information about the latest trends taking place in Scotland’s executive search market, get in touch with Iain on: Iain.Atkinson@morganphilips.com