Sector Analysis — Human Resources

Sector Analysis — Human Resources

Human Resources Industry Analysis

By Sam Burne James –

Austerity has forced HR to be more commercially minded and technology has contributed to making this happen — a virtuous circle is in place

Recruitment agencies report steady but far from overwhelming demand across the HR market as a whole, with some saying contract and interim roles have picked up the slack where permanent hiring has slowed.

Stephen Menko, the director of HR recruiter Ortus, picks out three particularly strong sectors: oil & gas, retail and financial services, with reward, and compensation & benefits skills in particular demand in the latter sector.

Meanwhile, Emma-Claire Kavanagh, head of HR at interim and executive recruiter Eton Bridge Partners, sees demand increasing for learning & development and talent management experts across her markets. “The economy is showing signs of recovery and the challenge for businesses now is how they retain their top talent,” she says. “Recruiting commercially-focused learning and talent specialists is a signal that career development, succession planning and training is important and they are prepared to invest in their employees’ future potential.”

Indeed, Claire McCartney, a research adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), calls employee engagement — “getting the best from employees in difficult times… building trust” — a crucial skill. Getting the best from staff across the business and getting the best out of HR teams means the clever use of technology.

Also saying rewards and HR analytics professionals are “very much in demand”, James Ballard, one of the founders of HR recruiter Annapurna HR, tells Recruiter that the firm has spent the last 18 months mapping out talent able to work with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product Workday. Oracle’s Fusion, he says, is next. “I think we are ahead of the curve,” he says, “but it’s no secret that recruiters need to build specialised talent pools in those areas.”

At SAP, the business enterprise software provider’s UK & Ireland HR director Laura Burton tells Recruiter: “We’ve automated a lot of our processes, a lot of the more transactional [HR] work as such has been streamlined and we’ve continued to automate more year-in, year-out, freeing up time for the HR business partners to be more strategic.”

Having what Burton calls “financially commercial strengths” and the ability to work strategically and partner with the business are the top priorities for her HR team, she says, alongside building organisational design capability.

Thiloni Fothergill, an HR talent acquisition business partner at consumer brand Kellogg’s, goes further, saying that her firm would thus demand in HR recruits “the gravitas to be recognised as one of the business function’s leadership teams — influencing and inspiring at all levels throughout the structure”.

Another recurring feature, though more prominently seen in last year’s HR Sector Analysis (Recruiter, February 2012), is HR people who are in Fothergill’s words “experts in dealing with and guiding business areas through ever changing environments and cultures”.

While skilled professionals expert in any number of areas in HR — and beyond — seem to be in short supply, Fothergill’s answer to Recruiter’s question of whether the people they need are available is that “they are available if we think and attract differently from the traditional places”. Innovation is very much the name of the game for both HR and HR recruitment.

Stakeholder Comments

Laura Burton 

HR director (UK & Ireland), SAP

“It’s really important we have a lot of different people from all levels in SAP that will go on into HR, because I think it gives them the full spectrum of the business, and I also think it really helps HR because it gives them the understanding and the importance of what we’re doing.”

Thiloni Fothergill 

UK HR talent acquisition business partner, Kellogg’s

“In order to have an effective recruitment strategy talent acquisition and talent management need to be linked. Talent pipelining can only be done effectively when HR and talent acquisition work in partnership.”

Claire McCartney

Research adviser, CIPD

“The signs are that more organisations are focusing on retention because they’re starting to think that people may be starting to look for jobs… [it had been] quite a low priority in recent years.”

Stephen Menko

Director, Ortus

“Demand has declined for recruiters and generalists, there’s increased demand for reward people, especially with regulatory and FSA professional experience, and also comps & bens and L&D.”

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