Promising job market for HR professionals

After a tough 2009, the HR recruitment market has improved during the first half of 2010. Overall, there has been an increase in the number of HR roles coming to market at all levels and across all HR disciplines.

However, we have found the volume of top talent looking for new jobs has decreased in the past couple of months; this is mainly due to the fact that candidates who were interested in moving during the recession successfully secured roles shortly after confidence returned earlier in the year.

Competition among employers for high-calibre HR professionals remains high and we are starting to see clear signs of a shift towards a candidate-driven market again.

In terms of specific roles within commerce, HR generalists are still in high demand. This has been a fairly consistent trend and was particularly noticeable throughout the recession as businesses looked to demand a lot more from their HR departments while keeping costs low.

Across all sectors, recruitment activity in specialist areas has also now started to increase as the economy has started to recover. In particular, there has been a rise in hiring of learning and development, reward, recruitment and change and organisational development professionals.

Of these specialist positions, learning and development professionals were, in many cases, the first casualties of last year’s recession.

Indeed, demand for learning and development specialists is a good barometer of wider market conditions, so the fact that we are now experiencing greater demand in this area is further evidence of market recovery.

It is also an indication of a wider desire to retain key talent within businesses as professionals became more confident about moving into new roles.

We have also seen a significant increase in demand for reward specialists as employers look to restructure their reward and benefits packages. We have also seen an increased demand for HR Management reporting specialists and HRIS Analysts.

Within recruitment, we have seen an increased demand for both in-house and on-site resourcing roles within larger organisations, which is another positive indication of increasing market confidence. This is particularly evident in the financial services market, although previous sector experience is often required.

As many companies continue to restructure, there is still a demand for HR business partners and employee relations specialists to drive this change. Within financial services, organisational development, transformation and change management project roles are particularly in demand at the moment, especially within the larger banks that have embarked on long-term change programmes.

In some cases, the highest calibre of HR professionals may not necessarily be proactively looking for a new job. However, we have found that the majority are often open to hearing about new roles. We are also receiving an increased number of speculative enquiries from people in HR asking about the state of the market.

In 2009, a number of candidates were prepared to take a drop in salary after being made redundant, and those who remained in their roles may have experienced salary freezes.

This year we have found that many organisations are starting to acknowledge the need to pay for top talent and salaries have started to increase as demand has risen.

Consequently, HR professionals are looking to get back on track with their own personal salary progression and there are now greater general expectations around pay. Employers are realising that the strength of their company name is often not enough in itself to secure the quality of candidate they hope for in the current market and that they need good incentives in place to attract the best people. We are finding that swift recruitment processes and a company’s ability to ‘sell’ itself can make a huge difference in attracting the top talent.

As for the foreseeable future, the summer holiday season may result in a slightly slower recruitment period in the short term. However, come September we are confident the market will improve again. Ultimately, the outlook for HR professionals is looking positive.

Kate Francis is manager of HR recruitment at Robert Walters

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