Executive Search in Switzerland – 2021 Outlook

Thin Air Gives Swiss Chance To Reflect

In 2020, the pandemic gave additional impetus to structural and social change. After a short period of shock in Switzerland, immediate measures were taken everywhere. These activities masked the uncertainty, and in 2021 we expect the partly uncoordinated activism to recede. In politics and business, people are reflecting on their own strengths and values.

The loss of public confidence in politics and business predicted in our Outlook 2020 faded into the background as a result of the pandemic. Individual players were even able to gain trust, especially the executives. The reasons for this are, on the one hand, the pure desire of the population in a crisis to trust someone and, on the other hand, the executive branch did its job quite well, grosso modo.

On the political level, in 2020 we saw state intervention as an emergency measure on a scale not seen in Switzerland since the emergency law regime during World War II. Personal freedom was massively restricted, tax money was paid out to cushion pecuniary hardship, stores and schools were closed. Politicians and authorities acted clumsily at the beginning of the pandemic, provoking  a cacophony of “expert” pandemic response. Ideas ranged from temporarily abolishing federalism to building a state industry to produce hygiene supplies and respirators. Since Switzerland is in the mountains and the air there is thin, the process from idea to decision is longer, and there is time for reflection. Therefore, we do not expect a political earthquake, but the encroachments on personal freedom will remain in 2021.

In the economy, after a lot of ad hoc decisions, measures, and the switch from analog to digital by the haircut method, we expect companies to reflect on their strengths. Postponed investments are likely to be made more frequently in 2021 after reconsideration if they strengthen the company’s USP.

Digitization will continue to advance, but analog –  as in direct exchange – will gain in importance again. This applies in particular to non-standard products and solutions. For these higher-priced niche or specialty products, personal contact, important for trust and perceived reliability, is likely to regain importance – also as a reaction to digital anonymity and perceived non-commitment.

The exploded demand for digital experts will remain high. However, companies will realize that digital know-how alone is not sufficient for managing companies and solving problems. Traditional management qualities and technical expertise will gain in importance again.

For the recruiting market, we see a continuation of the trend toward in-house headhunting with corresponding pressure on the recruiting industry’s fee levels. In addition, online recruiting companies will increasingly enter the market. Now that online solutions and internal headhunters have been deployed at all levels, initial experiences are becoming apparent.

For senior management, these have been mixed so far. In 2021, we expect the involvement of an external expert to remain state-of-the-art or to become so again for positions where the right person is crucial and a wrong choice causes great damage.

Facts & figures

2020: 3% (estimated based on previous data)
2021: 2.5% – 3% (forecast)

Unemployment rate
2020: – 3,3% (actual)
2021: + 3,0%. (forecast)

2020: – 0.7% (actual)
2021: 0.0% (forecast)

Contact the author, Christian Ulrich at christian-ulrich@cornerstone-group.com

For more information on executive search services in Switzerland, go to Cornerstone Zurich