The global economic downturn has necessitated an alteration in the way many businesses operate. In Banking and Financial Services in particular this has resulted in the instigation of complex change management programs, which are presenting a variety of tangible opportunities for HR professionals. With their nuanced understanding of the constantly shifting, evolving and fluctuating needs of the workforce, HR professionals who have the ability to play an integral role in progressing change are in high demand.
Yet despite being central to implementing change management programs, it is rarely the HR departments who physically instigate the change strategy in the Financial Services sector. We are seeing much more creative opportunities open up in Pharma, FMCG and Technology sectors, where employers increasingly require professionals who can exhibit examples of thought leadership.
The growth of importance of the HR specialist is not, however, confined to the Financial Services, Pharma and Technology sectors. After the turbulence of the recession, there is now a genuine understanding at Board level across all professional services of the value that people management and people development can bring to a rapidly evolving workplace. This understanding has manifested itself in an increasing demand for HR professionals at the most senior levels, for coherent, bespoke and integrated training programmes at all strata of the business model, and for strategic input into resourcing, learning and development and evaluation. As the world's workplace grows, its workforce follows suit - and the constantly shifting, evolving and fluctuating needs of this workforce must be ascertained and channelled appropriately.
These important trends have been clearly borne out in recruitment demands across a range of industries. Learning and Development professionals in particular have been increasingly in demand since the beginning of 2011. We, at Badenoch & Clark, have noted a particular emphasis on demand for L&D roles at the specialist and managerial level. As organisations begin to grow confident about what the future hold, there is a desire to make long-term investments in professionals who are able to invest time and effort in the training and development of key executives. The ability to nurture and grow the skills of staff by-passes the need to recruit externally for new leaders, and fosters a culture of sustainable development which, in turn, heightens staff retention.
In this sense, HR professionals are moving increasingly close to the epicentre of the commercial decision making process. Those who are genuinely able to show demonstrable commercial awareness, and a strong business acumen and understanding are in exceptionally high demand across a range of sectors. This is particularly the case for HR professionals who have experience in working in a business partnership model. As people management and development raises its profile in the boardroom, organisations will increasingly rely on their HR professionals to sit on leadership teams and contribute towards improving internal processes, rendering the business as a whole leaner and more efficient. However, this is not to say HR professionals will get an easy ride. Even as we continue to progress away from the worst of the recession, HR departments are constantly reminded of the need to justify their value and deliver more positive results with fewer resources.
With organisations actively seeking and recruiting HR professionals who are able to advise on a range of issues and processes, and develop executives in a rapidly evolving working environment, the future is bright for those keen to develop their careers and who can deliver in an environment where resources are highly contested.
It is perhaps pertinent to view the modern HR function as an in-house consultancy service. As such, the role which HR will play in the development and execution of future business strategies has never been so high on the agenda.
Lynne Hardman,MD, professional services at Badenoch & Clark