Outlook for the professional services sector moving forward in 2021/2022

December 14th, 2021

For transformation to take place, it starts with people, but specifically with deliberate action from leaders.

Diana Mahabir-Wyatt
Board Chair and Senior Consultant of PMSL and President of the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR)

The landscape for those in the consultancy and services sector for the coming year is grim. COVID-19 is not going to go away, according to the medical professionals, and as a nation, we are just going to have to live with it, sooner rather than later, when, apart from a few large conglomerates, the private sector economy is failing and Government has increased charges for petroleum products, hence the cost of living generally and transport for those lucky enough to be still earning.

SMEs will continue to need help from the services sector, most keenly from financial, marketing and internet technology consultants, who can help them get out of debt and back into profitable, or even break-even status, but it will be a challenge and may depend on banks and other investment financing sources’ willingness to be flexible in their loan policies.

A major challenge for human resource professionals will be dealing with severance pay issues which are contingent liabilities often ignored in recessions and therefore unions’ willingness to join with employers on severance issues, to find creative alternatives, will be important. Unions are themselves business organisations with wages, rents, electricity, water rates, insurances, and internet charges to meet on a monthly basis, while the members’ fees they depend on are dropping as employees are retrenched and cannot afford to pay fees. Industrial relations and human resource managers now face the most severe challenges in their professional careers.

The optimists among us continue to believe that every recession brings opportunities as well as challenges, and they are right. While the lockdown and Government restrictions on travel, procurement, sport, hospitality, restaurants, bars and leisure activities continue, anyone with expertise in those sectors, with a few dollars in savings, has the time to qualify themselves and staff, with internet technology and applications which offer the greatest opportunities for the future.  Financial wizards can guide businesses through acquisitions of what remains of competitors forced to close, freeing up professional skills to staff new start-ups and mergers. COVID-19 has affected businesses all over the world, and job markets everywhere have tightened. Traditional escape routes through emigration are more difficult to find.

Post COVID-19, businesses will be highly digital as official Government and international stakeholders will also be moving to more electronic and leaner staff structures. Managers and professionals will be expected to handle a larger portion of their own administrative functions electronically.

The highly overstaffed Government services will have to face tightening as well, putting more expertise on the market and professionals with the knowledge and skills to navigate the corridors of Government bureaucracy will be available, and many with hefty severance payments to invest in service industries. Those resource opportunities are critically needed in the private sector.

The outlook for 2021-2022 is deeply uncertain but in that uncertainty may be the opportunities where innovative managerial consultants may find their futures.