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Flexibility could unlock hidden HR talent pool

If the profession took some of its own advice there could be a relatively simple solution to HR vacancies

From a recruiter’s perspective HR has been dominated by a specific trend in the last year or so: a lack of available candidates. It’s become a prominent challenge for HR departments across the board. But, if the profession took some of its own advice, there could be a relatively simple solution.

Throughout 2017 our annual HR Salary Survey found that the growing disparity between supply and demand saw salaries rise across a range of HR roles, predominantly at the junior end of the market.

The first three months of 2018 have seen this trend intensify. Temporary staff are in huge demand and, at first glance, there doesn’t appear to be the talent pool to fill the gaps. We’re seeing an increasing set of vacancies for the dwindling number of strong candidates, which means there are plenty of opportunities for those keen to move.

There has been a notable surge in demand for HR professionals with specific expertise – namely a background in HR information systems, reward, or organisational design. The GDPR has also meant that a lot of roles with a bias towards data management and analytics have arisen; but this is likely to be transient.

Where HR roles look set to remain on the increase in the medium and long term is the food and drink sector. The growth of this industry in Scotland has been inexorable over the past few years, and with expansion often comes HR and project-based roles to develop new processes and procedures. The third sector has also seen a spike in demand after a great deal of change in the last 12 months.

There is one relatively simple step HR departments could take to remedy candidate shortages: flexible working. While flexible working is something many HR teams proselytise to their wider businesses, it’s not always a policy they practise themselves.

HR has long been dominated by women – a 2011 survey from the CIPD found that some 70% of its members were female. They are more likely to need flexible or agile contracts; particularly if and when they return to work after maternity leave.

Organisations, and HR teams specifically, need to reflect that in their workplace policies. There is a significant amount of untapped potential in HR that the profession isn’t accessing because of its reticence over flexibility in terms of working hours.

Many that we’ve spoken to say they don’t believe someone on reduced hours can get the work done, but they’re often looking at it the wrong way. If they measured outputs rather than the number of hours spent at a desk and they’d find that, like many disciplines, HR professionals on flexible terms can pull their weight.

Many HR teams are struggling to find the right people and that looks to be the story of 2018, despite the abundance of latent talent that comes with one proviso: flexibility. Let employees come and go, treat them like adults, and they’ll reward you with hard work and loyalty. If HR teams followed their own credo many could overcome their largest predicament.

Monica Lochrie is a senior consultant in HRC Recruitment’s HR team