Switzerland — National Outlook 2022:
A Personal View by Christian Ulrich
As in 2020, the pandemic dominated 2021, but its impact was economically less turbulent. The decline in activism we had predicted did occur. We saw a return to stability in the business sector because the political system was functioning. The economy, thanks in part to government support, was still doing well after two years of COVID-19. However, businesses in the fields of catering, event planning/staging, and fitness are still struggling to recover.
As predicted, the political system has returned to its foundational strengths and values, i.e., broad popular support for pragmatic government decision-making and respect for its ability to compromise. The population has approved the Coronavirus measures after two referendums. This is because the government has taken a solution-oriented approach to policymaking, implicitly taking into account the concerns of the 40% of the electorate opposing the Coronavirus measures. Since the last vote, protests are now virtually non-existent.
The government’s climate measures, on the other hand, were rejected by the population at the ballot box. Many citizens believed the political class had hidden regulations in the climate package that was financially favourable to its corporate allies. Subsequent negotiations should make for more honest regulatory compromises, which the population will likely approve.
We were wrong about water protection (Outlook 2020). We underestimated the agricultural lobby, which could credibly claim the danger of an undersupply of food and increasing prices if the water protection initiative was accepted.
Another significant problem is Switzerland’s unstable relations with the EU. As mentioned in our Outlook 2020, the agreements negotiated by the Swiss government met with such strong domestic resistance that the government broke off negotiations with the EU in 2021. While striving for objectivity, I believe Switzerland has produced a rather large pile of dung here. But since it is well known that the most enormous dung heaps make the most beautiful roses, there is hope.
However, since the pressure of suffering on both sides is not yet high enough, we expect relations with the EU to deteriorate further in 2022, with further adverse effects on the economy and research.
After the shock in 2021, the economy of the CH (Confoederatio Helvetica, i.e. Swiss Confederation) has adapted surprisingly quickly to new circumstances and has gone digital. Businesses have also become accustomed to the fact that anything is possible, and the certainties of old ways of doing things are highly questionable. The recipe forward seems to be resolute strides but in mini-steps, a rapid seizing of emerging opportunities and, during downtime, lying low but in an always-on reaction mode. In short: practicing an agile mindset.
We expect that in 2022 strategic thinking and a long-term view will once again become more prevalent. The reason is not so much because the veil of fog has lifted and uncertainty has disappeared, but because employees cannot be kept in line, and customer trust cannot be built up by reacting without a strategy.
We expect employee issues to become even more critical for companies in 2022. The retirement of baby boomers will accentuate this, their exit accelerated by the pandemic. The result is a shortage of labour, especially among specialists and managers. Firms have begun offering higher wages, flexible scheduling, and other perks to attract talent. Often, however, companies have become willing to compromise on the quality of newly hired employees. This has led to unfortunate experiences in some cases.
As economies swing back to a “new normal,” we can expect employers to be more willing to look further down the road in making strategic decisions. Recruiting will generally be carried out more carefully again, and the appropriateness of matching prospective hires to the challenge of the mandate will once again command center stage.
This should prove beneficial to the executive search industry, as defining and finding quality is its task. But at the same time, we can expect even more aggressive competition from pay-for-hire search companies, as their traditional business will continue to disappear due to the increased expansion of in-house company recruiting and to online competition. This will result in an even wilder arena for mandates and will further intensify the price war. We do not expect this situation to ease until 2025 when most companies will have (re)realized that quality work is worth the price. Poor-quality hiring practices are costlier in the long run.
Switzerland – Facts & Figures
2021: 3.5% (estimated based on previous data)
2022: 2.5% – 3% (forecast)
2021: 3% (actual)
2022: 2.4%. (forecast)
2021: 0.6% (estimated based on previous data)
2022: 1.0% (forecast
For more information on executive search services in Switzerland, go to Cornerstone Zurich