Amid a raft of leadership changes, the channel is prepping for recovery

Robertson Sumner CEO, Marc Sumner was recently asked about his view on the current state of hiring across the IT Channel.  This article first appeared on the 7th February 2024.


The Robertson Sumner CEO believes the channel is primed for a top-down recruitment surge

As we ushered in the new year, the winds of change swept through the IT channel, leaving a palpable shift in their wake.

From strategic restructuring to a surge in mergers and acquisitions, the landscape has been tumultuous, with ripple effects resonating across various segments of the industry.

At Robertson Sumner, we’ve observed these developments firsthand and I’d like to offer a few insights into the dynamics at play.

I believe we’re set to see a raft of changes in senior leadership, leading to waves of hiring lower down the chain.

This is backed up, anecdotally, by the volume of hiring. In Q1 of 2023, at Robertson Sumner, we only placed two senior leaders across the channel.

Already in the same period of 2024, we have placed 12 – a sure sign that demand and confidence is picking up.

Additionally, the number of passive candidates approaching us has doubled compared to the same period last year. Our team are interviewing approximately 150 candidates from right across the channel on a weekly basis.

This indicates a huge spike in confidence compared to 2023.

The most and biggest changes appear to be within the reseller and MSPs space. This is also the area that is seeing the most M&A activity. There has been and will be some more consolidation in the distribution space which has also led to changes in the leadership teams.

The first signs of recovery?

In 2023, financial performance across the channel wasn’t where it needed to be.

Private equity and venture capital firms were putting pressure on CEOs to make a change and give answers as to why they weren’t hitting their numbers.

In turn pressure has been applied to CROs and sales directors. So people have been let go and new leadership brought in across many channel firms.

Coinciding with a flurry of M&A activity, this led to a larger than usual number of leaders coming onto the job market in Q4 of 2023 and Q1 of 2024.

Confidence has returned, despite last year’s vendor lay-offs. The number of candidates who are currently employed and trying to find better opportunities has dramatically increased.

The job market is susceptible to network effects. When a few people start changing roles, and people start talking, comparing salaries, packages and employee benefits, it can lead to a real movement, so I think the next two quarters will be buoyant.

On the employer side, channel firms we are speaking to are predicting a return to growth in H2. So people are busy trying to get their talent in place now to capitalise on the opportunity.

When there has been a change of leadership (like when a new football manager takes over a team) there is usually a period of readjustment.

Some new leaders like to bring in top performers they have worked with in the past. Likewise, some people invariably follow their outgoing bosses. So, there is always an uptick in demand for recruitment in these instances.

The talent shortage is likely to persist

But this can be a double-edged sword. When it comes to the talent shortage, all this movement certainly doesn’t change this status quo. There tends to be the same finite amount of talent moving around.

Additionally, the return of the desire to hire people close to an office location may also mean the talent shortage will start becoming more of an issue.

Here, the role of apprenticeships and D&I initiatives cannot be overstated. Initiatives to bring in talent from other sectors and hiring people fresh out of education – these are really the only strategies to help alleviate talent constraints.

Marc Sumner is the CEO of recruitment consultancy Robertson Sumner, specialising in IT and sales recruitment. Marc founded Robertson Sumner in the year 2000 after a successful career in sales recruitment.

With a track record of successfully recruiting for some of the technology sector’s biggest brands since 1998 including Cisco, F5, NetApp, Ingram Micro and Westcon, since 2019 Marc has started hosting the “Channel Chat podcast show” and has interviewed some of the biggest personalities in the Technology industry.

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