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Hot sector spotlight: HR

Published 27th Jul 2022

The rising rate of inflation is edging towards double digits – having reached a 40-year high of 9.4% in June 2022 – real wages are falling and costs rising. Household incomes are being squeezed like never before. And we’re in the middle of a political maelstrom with global headwinds stopping us in our tracks.  

Yet the UK economy is growing and hiring activity is buoyant. 

According to the latest ONS figures, job vacancies for April-June 2022 were just shy of 1.3m with GDP also up by 0.8% during the first quarter of the year. The employment rate increased to 75.9% for the period March-May 2022 with the unemployment rate moving positively in the opposite direction (3.8%). 

These encouraging indicators have been reinforced by data from the CIPD and REC, which reveals that employers are intending to increase permanent hiring in the short term across both the public and private sectors (the demand for flexible, temporary labour has fallen). This upward trend in job vacancies is a true litmus test of post-COVID economic recovery. 

The stock of the HR function continues to rise.

The pandemic only reinforced the influence of the HR function. Not only having to deal with redundancies but the concerns around the detrimental effect of remote working on mental health, HR teams had to prioritise employee wellbeing and mental health.   

Demand continues to grow not just for generalist but also for specialist HR practitioners, particularly in areas such as employee relations (ER), learning and development (L&D) and compensation and benefits. As companies ramp up their hiring, there has also been a strong focus on internal recruitment and talent acquisition as evidenced by these LinkedIn findings.   

As you might expect in such a wide-ranging role, HR professionals must have first-class communication and listening skills. Demonstrating empathy, HR roles require an ability to multitask and juggle many different projects. In today’s environment, coaching skills and qualifications are often highly sought after to develop high potentials and future leaders. 

Metrics and reporting are also central to the HR function. According to research by UK HR software company Sympa, data will become even more important in shaping people decisions. Almost half of respondents (46%) said that they value people or talent analytics, which analyse past employee behaviour to predict future performance. 

Attracting top HR talent remains the biggest challenge.  

Analysis from the CIPD reveals interestingly that while raising salary is the most important weapon in the armoury, organisations are now looking to upskill employees in a bid to source talent for hard-to-fill vacancies while promoting flexibility far more. 

HR professionals also prefer a hybrid work pattern so that they can attain a healthy work-life balance and be able to enjoy family time and pursue other interests. National Bureau of Economic Bureau (NBER) research found that remote working reduced quit rates by 35%.

To boost retention, organisations want to focus on staff training and development, followed by salary and employee wellbeing. The latter is particularly important given recent events with employee assistance, wellness programmes and health apps growing in popularity. The research also found that almost half of employers (44%) are considering increasing pay as a way to improve hiring outcomes – only 8% had implemented a pay freeze. 

In a talent short market, where candidates are often receiving several job offers, organisations must do everything they can to differentiate themselves but also hold on to their best talent. Better pay to help with the cost of living, training and development for career development and flexible working for improved mental health is the blueprint to follow.

The role of HR as a strategic business partner.  

A career in HR has broad appeal to many people given its integral role in people management. It’s a hugely rewarding and varied job that involves the rollout of key talent programmes, including diversity and inclusion, training and development, as well as devising strategies to build and create a future pipeline of leaders.  

But where the standing of the HR department has changed the most in recent years is in the credibility it has now earned in delivering corporate targets and objectives. That is why there is such demand for individuals who are adept at aligning people and business strategies. 

Looking for a rewarding new HR role in the UK?

For those looking to start out in HR or for more experienced candidates, at McCarthy we partner with a range of companies, small and large, across many different industry sectors. They want to hear from individuals with the desire to drive transformational change.  

If you’d like to know more about the possibilities on offer and would like to discuss your HR career options further, you can contact our HR specialists on 0161 828 8726 or email enquiries@mccarthyrecruitment.com

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