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UK employers confident about growth in 2012, but recruitment looks less optimistic for HR staff, says Robert Half Index

David Woods , 25 Jan 2012

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Despite the uncertain economic outlook, almost three-quarters (72%) of UK executives are more confident about their company’s growth prospects compared with last year, according to the latest Robert Half Professional Hiring Index.

A third (33%) of senior executives of UK companies are planning to recruit permanent, professional-level staff in the first half of 2012.

One in five (21%) executives plans to decrease permanent headcount, leading to a net employment increase of 12%.

In functional areas, such as HR and marketing, the hiring forecast is less optimistic than in finance and IT.

Just over one-in-five (21%) HR directors expect to increase the headcount of their HR teams in the first half of 2012. However, 26% plan to decrease hiring plans, leading to a 5% net decline. A slightly higher 23% of human resources directors indicate that they have plans to increase permanent headcount in marketing departments, with 26% expecting declines: a net hiring decrease of 3%. There are stronger prospects for marketing personnel within publicly listed and large organisations, which predict net hire gains of 8% and 3% respectively.

The Index, which is the first bi-annual recruitment survey of its size and scope to focus exclusively on professional-level hiring in the UK, shows that the biggest drivers for increased hiring levels are 'rising workloads' and 'business growth', while the top reasons for decreased hiring are the slowdown in the economy and cost-management strategies.

There are clear differences between company types when it comes to hiring plans for the first six months of 2012. Private companies expect a net 14% increase, with 33% planning to add permanent headcount and 19% anticipating declines. Publicly listed companies are the most bullish on expansion, with 42% planning increases and 20% forecasting decreases: a net 22% hiring increase and 10 points above the national average.

Phil Sheridan, MD, Robert Half UK, said: "Private and publicly listed companies have above-average confidence in their businesses' ability to grow this year. This positive belief in their future success is the main driver behind stronger predictions for new hires over the next six months: more than three-in-four (76%) of private companies and 80% of publicly listed companies are confident in their businesses' growth prospects."

Despite reported challenges facing the public sector, almost a quarter (23%) of executives in professional occupations plan to increase their permanent headcount, while 24% expect declines, leading to a net 1% decrease. Unsurprisingly, cost management is the main driver for reducing professional staff in the public sector and was cited by one in three executives who plan to decrease their headcount.

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