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Market Overview: Executive HR in The UK - Jan 2013
Despite challenging economic circumstances, top HR talent is demand from boards looking to cement their businesses’ position and prepare for future growth. What are the opportunities for HR professionals to prove their commercial worth?
Confidence in the economy continues to hit the headlines. Fallout from the eurozone crisis and high-street brands under administration feature as realities – but challenging operating environments are nothing new and boards understand the value of attracting and retaining strong HR resources to position them for defence and growth.
“It’s all about the people. That’s what a lot of our clients are telling is at the moment,” according to Miles Greenslade, director of Page Executive’s HR practice. “We are being instructed to find HR leaders who have the ability to impact the human capital and commercial operations of a business as boards prepare and plan for what the next few years could deliver.”
Skills in demand
Staff retention is top of many organisations’ agendas. The ability to engage top employees with value proposition development is viewed as a key skill by organisations that rely on a strong talent base for future growth. Employee engagement in the current market extends past the traditional motivators of increased compensation and career progression to include a focus on job stability and work/life balance. Those HR leaders with a proven track record of developing and implementing an encompassing retention strategy are viewed as key by boards looking to future-proof their organisations.
Predictably, commercial skills in HR leaders is also a hot topic. “We saw somewhat of a rush during 2012 for recognised, commercially-focused HRDs from environments that have thrived during these tougher economic times,” said Jessica Whitehead, associate director of Page Executive with a focus on the HR interim market.
Can you communicate your commerciality?
“While every HR leader states that they operate in a commercially-oriented manner, many fall short of being able to articulate their true commercial worth,” according to Paul McNamara, director of Page Executive’s HR practice.
“One of the biggest bug-bears of my clients is that HRD-level candidates still struggle to communicate their true worth to an organisation. Whether you’re a shop-floor worker or the chairman, every individual has to demonstrate that they bring something which will add a significant positive element to the company. Nobody can afford to carry passengers in this economy,” he added.
The ability to display commercial nous is a skill that Page Executive helps our candidates to develop. “Even when we initially meet HR professionals, their ability to ‘sell’ their worth can be poor and requires some drawing out. We work hard with the candidates that we represent to help them to communicate their deliverables and as a result of this activity our successful placement rate is one of the highest in the market,” according to Miles Greenslade.
The rise of interim management
The value that strong HR leadership brings to an organisation extends to interim resource. “Interim HR experts are particularly valuable to organisations looking to strengthen existing positions and develop growth plans,” according to Lucy Martin, associate director of Page Executive’s HR practice. “With the major focus on employee engagement and adding value to the bottom line, experienced interim managers who have ‘been there and done that’ are particular sought-after for their proven track records,” she added.
Another trend we’ve noticed is the rise in confidential searches. “No advertising, no open networking, just pure search,” states Paul McNamara. With incumbents in place we are running a significant number of searches that are not in the public domain.
“There is certainly no lack of candidates, but it’s those that are able to demonstrate their commercial worth and ability to add value are in the highest demand,” he added.
As we begin 2013, the noticeable trend that we can take away from last year is that boards have spent time evaluating their current HR resources and developing an appreciation that people will be the key to their short-term defence and longer-term growth strategies.