Vision 2020 – Sandra Lawler of Alternatives

30th December 2019

Posted In: In Your Opinion

Founder director Sandra Lawler of Alternatives gives WMB readers her expert predictions for the major issues facing Business, Employers, Talent and the Marketing sector in 2020.


•Brexit will still be the biggest issue hanging over Irish businesses. The future trading outlook is still positive overall, but declining, and Brexit will further drive this down. Brexit will continue to take a lot of time and focus of management and will continue to impact on consumer sentiment negatively, as it did in 2019. Those in the motor sector, retail and FMCG, drinks and travel, will be most impacted.

•Competition for talent should still be high, driven by those in sectors less impacted by Brexit. The market for those at early to mid-stage career will remain buoyant.

•On the supply side, if the market remains active – and it should – then there will be takers for new job opportunities, in companies with a good reputation, who can offer meaningful roles, career progression and a competitive package.

•Whilst direct hiring will continue to grow, we predict that organisations will adopt a more balanced approach to recruitment, opting to partner exclusively with specialist & boutique talent firms for in demand and senior talent.

•A big theme in 2020 will be gender pay equality, with the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill likely to be enacted in early 2020. Companies of 250 employees plus will have to report on their company gender pay gap as well as on equal pay stats. If there are gaps – and there’s currently a 13.9% gender pay gap in Ireland and a 14% senior pay gap in marketing – they’ll need to explain why and outline the measures they are taking to reduce it.

•The drive to embrace flexibility, both to compete in the market using flexible talent and as means to engage employees by offering flexible working options, will be a key theme in 2020. The “Flex Generation” of both females and males will continue to seek and get flexible working arrangements, to accommodate long commutes, a desire for better work life balance, and enabled by developments in technology. 75% of the community currently get offered some flexible working option, mostly remote working or flexible hours. Some of these arrangements are informal but we believe that in 2020 companies will proactively work on ways to structure and enable this more.

•Flexible working will also become a much bigger deciding factor for candidates considering a move. Indeed, an organisation that can respond to this need will win the battle for talent and have a more engaged workforce longer term.

•Companies will continue to avail of the gig economy and use interim managers and contractors to access the best people and to compete with flexibility.

•There will be increased focus in companies on diversity. There are some great efforts being made by the multinationals to bring in diverse talent, however it’s not truly mainstream yet and the definition of diversity is not yet fully embraced. There’s focus on nationality but not enough focus on something simple like diversity of age groups.

•Marketing as a function will continue to be critical in the fight to drive revenue and in particular to build markets outside the UK. We expect to see the continued investment by scaling Irish companies in senior marketing and international expertise as they seek to professionalise and to grow their brands on a global stage.

•Those with digital and data & insights skills, strategic planning, effectiveness, product proposition, customer experience, strong brand management will remain in demand.

•In terms of Marketing Spend, we will continue to see a dominance of digital media and spend, indeed in our view an-over focus on short term tactical spend, to the detriment of long-term brand building investment.

Alternatives is an award-winning, dynamic talent consultancy specialising in all things marketing, digital & customer related.  Operating for 20 years, Alternatives are deep specialists in the key disciplines which unlock growth for business and careers. Sandra Lawler co-founded the company in 2000. She is a previous EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist and a joint recipient of the Image/Sunday Times Female Entrepreneur of the Year.