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Demand for HR professionals exceeds pre-pandemic levels

Vacancies for HR roles significantly dropped last year just as the first national lockdown began, however demand for people professionals was quick to bounce back.

The short recovery time has reinforced the importance of the profession as businesses looked to HR throughout the pandemic for guidance and support.

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The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) and Vacancysoft found the number of vacancies for the profession dropped 38% year-on-year in 2020.

The reduction in HR jobs was largely attributed to the first lockdown, which forced hiring levels down by 80.1% in April 2020 compared with the same month a year earlier.

However, HR jobs started to recover as the year progressed, and by the end of 2020 vacancies were 12% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Kate Palmer, director of HR advice at Peninsula, said the swift recruitment of HR professionals during the pandemic was unsurprising.

She told HR magazine: “With many businesses having to halt operations due to the pandemic, it is understandable that employers were not looking for HR specialists during the peak and may have either relied on their existing HR teams or external bodies.

“However, now that restrictions are being eased across the UK, employers may make hiring HR specialists a priority once more.”

Palmer said this is because HR is essential to employer-employee relationships and specialist input will come in handy over the next few years.

“Particularly because the decisions made now will be important for future growth, the decisions businesses make on managing a proper redundancy process, filling crucial roles, or managing the return of employees to the workplace,” she explained.

When recruiting HR specialist roles and trying to attract the best talent, Palmer said that businesses need to see their recruitment as an investment.

She said: “A similar approach can be taken when trying to sway job seekers into HR roles, particularly passive job seekers who are looking for a rewarding career and who wish to be an asset to an organisation.

“Recruiters need to make job seekers aware that HR is a mutually beneficial role that serves both them and the business.”

Wendy Muirhead, vice president at Ceridian Europe, said additional HR needs in 2020 were met by offering temporary contracts, rather than full-time, permanent roles.

Speaking to HR magazine she said: “This broadly mirrors overall employment trends we saw across industries, with lower availability of full-time specialists, perhaps signalling more HR professionals were staying put as the pandemic played out.”

By the end of 2020, Muirhead said this trend started to reverse as the number of full-time HR roles on offer began to increase.

“This was seemingly making up for lost time, with Q4 2020 showing higher availability of HR roles than Q4 2019," she said.

“This may reflect a recognition of the increasing importance of HR strategies and the pivotal role HR teams have played and are going to play in the coming years,” she said.

“Now as many organisations are moving out of a period of consolidation and are positioning for growth, HR teams and leadership will be vital to both the growth of organisations and growth of talent.”