Describe the UK's current HR recruitment market
Jonathan Wiles, managing director, Michael Page Human Resources (JW): While we’ve seen an overall decline in the UK recruitment market it has remained fairly robust considering the economic and European backdrop. Activity has been driven primarily by churn and specific projects are based around transformation rather than growth. Financial services has been hardest hit. Industry and commerce, consumer and not-for-profit sectors have been more resilient to economic conditions with a more consistent flow of recruitment. Equally, we have seen activity from big corporate organisations and SMEs.
The HR shared services experience has become more sought after as organisations either revisit a model previously implemented or now see shared services as a way of ensuring that HR is able to work in a true partnering manner. HR advisors and HR business partners who can truly ‘partner’ with key stakeholders are always in demand. There has also been a stronger emphasis on talent acquisition and learning and development specialists who can ‘future proof’ an organisation, to ensure talent is engaged and retained.
Debbie Smith, director, G Squared HR (DS): Recently the market has been very client driven due to the high number of candidates on the market. For example, permanent roles have been at offer stage and the employer decides to go back to market, put the role on hold or change to an interim role. The recruitment process has also been slow, with decisions taking months to come to fruition. Financial services is one of the busiest industries in terms of recruiting, but we’ve noticed a decline in HR professionals willing to work in this sector. The skills most in demand are change management and employee relations due to restructuring and redundancies. We have recently seen an increased demand in learning and development, which is a positive sign for 2013.
Andy Montgomery, associate partner, Eton Bridge Partners (AM): There’s strong demand for specialists in change and transformation. In particular, employers have been looking to consolidate their position by producing greater efficiencies in back office processes, to produce leaner HR functions as a result.
James Aston, director, search practice, BIE Group (JA): Despite a flat UK economy and wider Eurozone uncertainty, HR recruitment remains relatively buoyant. The HR skills most in demand are: organisation design, HR technology implementation – including process design and technology configuration/implementation – and employee relations consultation, reward and recognition. The latter is needed to support changes in regulation, pay and grading structures and incentive schemes. The key sectors are energy and resources; utilities, as the deregulated market continues to commercialise; retail financial services, due to the break-up of the larger retail financial services networks; general and life insurance, needed to support the consolidation of the market; and technology, media and telecommunications, driven by ongoing change within the retail mobile phone market and the growing demand for smart phones in particular.
Debbie Gray, director, Totum (DG): When law firms look to recruit HR professionals, they tend to look for a higher calibre candidate than they did a few years ago. Consultative, advisory and commercial skills are now preferential to process, back office and administration skills. Firms want HR individuals to act as business partners and advise them on people strategy. In today’s economic market, firms are looking to HR to provide alternative solutions to recruitment, talent management, retention and development. The HR market has been quiet partly because HR people have been utilised, challenged and valued by their employers in recent times.
Kim McNamara, business development director, Ashley Kate HR (KM): There’s a golden opportunity for talented HR generalists to lead from the front if they possess change management and transformation skills. Due to restructures, TUPE and M/A skills are in demand, coupled with candidates who can offer cost-saving ideas and manage the ever-quickening pace of change. Candidates with a mix of sector background will find the current market more accessible. Employee engagement experience is still high on HR recruiters’ wish lists. Maximising employee potential by updating performance management systems and talent mapping/succession planning initiatives have prompted a need for skilled L&D professionals. In the City, we are seeing an increase in HR roles in the charity, retail and FMCG sectors alongside a steady upturn in HR recruitment in financial services. There has been a decline in HR recruitment in certain sectors in the UK – public sector restructures are still hitting hard, particularly in the NHS where there is little movement in HR recruitment.
Barney Ely, director, Hays Human Resources (BE): Salaries remained stable throughout 2012 with relatively few organisations awarding substantial pay increases. However, those companies wishing to employ the most talented individuals in the market have to offer attractive salary and benefits packages. Areas of demand include experience of change and transition. Retaining the best talent is becoming a higher focus area and this could reflect a continued upturn in the demand for learning and development professionals.
Michael Oliver, associate director, Advantage Professional (MO): HR skills related to attracting, retaining and maximising employee potential are in high demand as organisations drive towards efficiency. Reward, learning & development, organisational design, organisational effectiveness and talent specialists are highly sought after. Strong HR business partners have remained in demand across commercial sectors. There has been a shift in market confidence in key sectors, with an increased number of commerce organisations – notably within FMCG, pharmaceutical, and technology – growing their generalist and specialist HR functions. In contrast, financial services organisations – especially those in retail or investment banking – continue to adopt a conservative approach to recruitment, often utilising replacement-only policies.
Nicola Grimshaw, CEO, Oakleaf Partnership (NG): The market is relatively busy right now. Reward is very candidate short and the number of jobs across the remit continues to grow with the increased profile of compensation and benefits. In the labour pool, there’s a lack of expertise in benefits, pensions and mobility. The quietest area is on the learning and development side. There’s an ongoing demand for good HR business partners and HR managers across all industry sectors.