Has political chaos made us cautious about hiring HR professionals?

Has the current political turmoil slowed the market for HR professionals?
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The ongoing political uncertainty has led to a high level of caution in hiring organisations. Most HR recruitment has come from replacing leavers or for business critical projects. Henry Lee looks at the market for HR professionals during the first half of this year, and offers some advice for both recruiters and jobseekers.

The HR recruitment market continues to fluctuate, with vacancies being reviewed, changed and pulled.

There is a general feeling that organisations are unwilling to commit to recruitment during politically unstable times as nobody knows what may be around the corner. Most hires have been replacing leavers or for business critical projects – we have seen a 25% reduction in roles available to date in 2019 when compared to 2018, but are filling more vacancies. This is a reflection of the ongoing need clients have to utilise agencies to secure and retain the very best talent.

In terms of regulatory changes having an impact on hiring, IR35 continues to affect all limited company contractors.

Hiring companies are looking at how this will affect their contractor base, putting in project teams to assess their current business operating model and looking to hire individuals who will set up internal recruitment and on-boarding processes to safeguard against this change.

Legislation and change

Legislative changes over 2019 may also increase the need for certain HR professionals.

These changes include itemised pay slips for all works, the increase of the penalty for ‘aggravated’ breach of employment to £20,000, as well as the review of Acas’ early conciliation scheme and flexible working regulations.

A variety of roles have become available as businesses go through continuous change programmes; with TUPE and specific M&A experience being in demand, as well as a need for HR project professionals and core HR business partners.

Not as easy as you think

Most people think HR recruitment is one of the easiest areas to recruit for. There are lots of candidates and you can guarantee every company has a HR team. However, HR recruitment can be tricky due to the number of industries and specialist skills and areas HR can cover, such as HR, payroll, recruitment, reward and training.

Flexibility and the opportunity for a good work-life balance are now crucial aspects of HR jobs and are major pulling factors for professionals.

Now I know that HR is a transferable skill, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s rare that we see clients who end up hiring an individual with a background outside their sector. This is important when it comes to recruiting an HR individual, and is more apparent when recruiting for senior HR positions.

The first point is the language the company uses, and if you haven’t worked in that sector, it’s hard.

For example: interviewing for a senior HR role you may meet senior stakeholders from business and it is unlikely you are being quizzed on your HR skill set, but ability to build rapport.

The best way to do this is to communicate in a language they understand, name-dropping businesses or individuals and market intel to show knowledge, network and understanding and ability to influence HR projects should you be successful.

Senior stakeholders, without knowing the workings of HR, find this relatability comforting and are likely to give that candidate their endorsement – it’s human nature to align yourself to what you know. This is further impacted by the “likeability” factor.

HR will lead complex projects (engagement/change/redundancies) and the ability to deliver these, sometimes sensitive, messages is demonstrated in the candidate’s experience, personality and character.

What to look for

Wide reach: Businesses may partner with an agency as HR recruitment consultants develop and maintain huge networks across their target market. You need the widest network possible to identify the right candidate when considering the wide range of possible roles.

Multi-pronged approach: Consultants utilise a various search methodologies to create their extensive networks to meet a client’s needs including a blend of skill sets, within a sector and aligning personalities to a hiring manager and wider senior leadership teams. These include: job boards, targeted marketing, LinkedIn and other social media, network, as well as candidate and client profiling.

Re-humanising recruitment: The changes to the recruitment industry over the last decade have been huge. We have seen advancements in technology (job boards, social media, Artificial Intelligence) and pressure to reduce costs (direct hire teams, reducing agency usage/fees, and stricter PSL agreements).

Flex it up

Flexibility and the opportunity for a good work-life balance are now crucial aspects of HR jobs and are major pulling factors for professionals.

Flexible working and the opportunity to work remotely continues to be promoted as a benefit for a range of roles – offering this is attractive to the large majority of HR professionals at all levels of seniority. Companies are starting to be adaptable in how they offer this, be it working from home or condensing hours as a whole.

Companies offering strong talent management and learning and development opportunities continue to retain their top professionals as they are generally the ones who value the chance to improve their career prospects.

Performance-related bonuses, even for fixed-term contract candidates when they complete projects, have also increased in popularity as organisations look for alternative ways to attract top professionals.

The industry as a whole is still very focused on reducing the gender pay gap and driving diversity. We are seeing this in terms of a focus on equal hiring programmes and companies looking for their recruitment agencies to demonstrate open and fair processes.

Who stands out?

There are a range of HR projects on the market involving technology change projects, HRIS implementations or large scale OD projects, often coming out of sales and acquisitions. Professionals who can display knowledge in these areas will put themselves in a strong position.

The biggest area of demand is in capability, engagement and change. With businesses needing to swiftly adapt and change at the moment, being able to deploy your talent to the best of their ability and keep them engaged is incredibly important.

Staying motivated over the slower summer months can be a challenge for HR jobseekers, but if you are looking for a new role, include recommendations or testimonials that display skills to support applications submitted.

Interviewing is led by building rapport, so understanding specific terminology for each organisation you are engaging with and relaying this in the interview is a simple, yet positive step.

A CIPD qualification will never hurt your application, committing to other qualifications around Psychometrics and/or anything around MI (management information) reporting is also useful.

Henry Lee

About Henry Lee

Henry Lee is manager for HR recruitment at Morgan McKinley
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