They say that technology is going to automate many of the more basic features of work; whether it’s data entry or scanning through reams of information. Yet the introduction of new systems actually translated into more work for HR professionals last year – particularly at a junior level.
Our annual HR Salary Survey found that, in 2018, there was a 40% increase in temporary and contract vacancies and an overall 33% rise in job openings on the year before. The surge in HR vacancies was largely driven by the need for extra staff to tackle GDPR issues, as well as deliver new HR systems and training and development programmes.
That saw wages rise in the lower and middle rungs of the HR market over the past 12 months or so. While a couple of years ago a business would have been able to hire an HR administrator for £17,000 per year, that’s now edged much closer to £20,000 and in some cases up to £25,000 for more experienced professionals.
Conversely, salaries at the higher end of the scale have started to decrease. It’s become a notable trend for businesses to see senior HR personnel leaving as an opportunity to cut costs and replace them with junior staff. As a result we saw an increase in the number of roles around the £40,000 per annum mark, as the volume of £60,000 and above per year positions diminished. Many of the immediately-available candidates who previously commanded these types of salaries are having to take a reduction in pay to secure work.
Yet, despite the clear demand for candidates at the junior end of the market, graduates are finding it more difficult than ever to take that first step on to the career ladder. Not enough HR departments are willing to open their administration levels up to graduates; preferring to take on experienced staff instead of training untested candidates. Exacerbating the issue is a lack of graduate programmes focused on HR functions at large corporates and consultancies.
However, there are two other influences shaping the lack of opportunities for young people trying to kickstart their careers in HR these days. The lead time to appoint graduates, which can take up to two months or longer can be a significant problem. Such timescales make it almost counter-productive to hire them for contract positions.
Then there is the Millennial factor: the rising expectations of inexperienced staff entering the talent pool. Many put a value on themselves that doesn’t necessarily correlate to their level of skills and experience. Perhaps part of that can be put down to many of these new candidates not having felt the effects of the recession; when jobs of any description were difficult to come by.
That was 2018 in a nutshell and it means businesses need to be aware of three ways It will continue to affect them in 2019. First, they should recognise that the timelines on filling HR contract vacancies aren’t as short as they once were. Companies therefore need to act quickly to progress candidates from interviews to offers, particularly if they need people imminently.
Second, if salaries are at the lower end of the scale businesses will struggle to attract the best HR talent. If their budget is stretched then they may want to consider looking to lower-level candidates who are chasing career progression. Nevertheless, a strong salary and benefits package will be crucial, with an emphasis on flexible working and holidays.
Finally, record employment, a diminished talent pool, and the small matter of Brexit will make it more difficult than ever for businesses to secure the people they need. Across the board many candidates are staying with their current employers to ride out this period of uncertainty. Understandably job offers will need to be very tempting to encourage strong HR professionals to move.
Monica Lochrie is a senior consultant, HR at HRC Recruitment