UK: How To Attract Talent To The Company Secretary Profession

Last Updated: 21 May 2018
Article by Rory Strong

Outside of pay, personal development, leadership and agile working are key to recruitment

The market for company secretaries in the UK has seen a meteoric rise in the last four years, with, at any one time, more than twice the number of jobs available, than at any point since we began collecting data. This has caused a shift in how the market recruits, moving from employer-led to employee-led.

Alongside this, the percentage of company secretaries who are actively looking for a new role has fallen from 37% to 19%. One factor causing this is the increase in the number of live roles not being balanced by an increase in those coming into the profession.

With more competition for a smaller pool of candidates, firms have had to adjust their recruitment and retention strategies to stand out.

Whether a company is looking to attract or retain the best talent, aside from a competitive salary there are three clear strategies that DMJ has identified through focus groups to support employers in any sector of the market. Over 85% of participants identified personal development plans, effective leadership and agile working as being most important.

While particular roles will always attract certain individuals, it would be implausible to try and cater to the whole market. Therefore, what is more relevant for employers is having clear and transparent development plans for staff, based on their career ambitions and skills.

Having a clear personal development plan (PDP) with all staff is a vital strategy to retaining and attracting talent. Clear and transparent PDP's offer staff a route to how they can progress in the department and over what timescale.

For example, if a staff member is interested in developing their board support skills, there should be a clearly defined and realistic set of goals which need to be achieved before the opportunity is given.

Personal development plans fail when they are considered of minor importance or not followed through by managers. Shifting expectations without adequate discussion disheartens staff and builds mistrust in future promises, limiting a PDPs effectiveness. Communication with staff and tracking is the key to PDPs being successful.

"A strong leader in a team will also raise the profile of the secretariat with other departments and key stakeholders in the business"

Effective leadership is another crucial factor for many employees. A leader who is inspiring, supportive and influential or has a couple of these traits is the Holy Grail for many staff. A change in leadership style has been very effective for a number of our clients when hiring.

Employees who feel valued by leaders as well as being offered the opportunity to have input on decisions have more investment in their department's success. Their role becomes a journey with the department they are invested in completing before moving. This ties in with a real investment in personal development plans.

A strong leader in a team will also raise the profile of the secretariat with other departments and key stakeholders in the business, giving the opportunity for further recognition of employees.

Effective leadership does not have to come from one singular person in a team nor does it have to come from the most senior. The larger the team the more important it is that effective leadership exists at all levels.

Having a career coach or mentor is critical in understanding leadership techniques and developing your skillsets, with particular improvements being observed in emotional intelligence and clear communication.

In addition to this, the rise of flexible working has become one of an employer's most cost-effective ways to retain and attract talent. Over 60% of our clients offer agile working, giving employees the flexibility to balance their personal and work life.

Working flexibility buys a lot of loyalty from current staff and has become a top priority for job seekers. For the last two years, a lack of working flexibility has been in the top five reasons for people looking to leave their employer.

Flexibility is notably important for companies based outside of the main population centres for company secretaries (London and the Midlands). Working flexibility can increase the radius of potential candidate pools and make long distant commutes more sustainable.

Agile working requires trust in a department and a clear set of expectations on what defines agile working for the department as this can vary. Our advice to employers is to discuss what their staff expect flexibility to mean, mutually agreeing a set of guidelines. It should never be given begrudgingly and should become a convention between employer and employee.

A combination of these will support your departments goal in retaining or attracting top talent in a highly competitive market. It is worth noting that it is hard to retain top talent forever and that variety in training and exposure is actually beneficial to employer and employee in the long run.

Offering opportunities and supporting development will allow you to attract the best talent when it is time to let your staff move on.

Rory Strong is associate director at DMJ

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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