Uncertainty has resulted in many South West businesses focusing on their existing workforce rather than hiring externally but there remains an appetite for growth and a feeling of optimism.
The underlying theme for Accounting & Finance hiring across the South West has been unpredictability over the past few months, with many employers implementing strategies of retention, training and redistribution of current workforce rather than recruiting. This continued economic uncertainty, especially influencing those companies that trade across Europe, is originating from Brexit and has resulted in job flow being slightly down when compared to the same period of 2018. On a positive note, the interim market seems to be more buoyant and professionals have found themselves in the enviable position of being able to consider multiple opportunities.
Brexit has also been influencing the South West’s HR community - the high population of Manufacturing, Retail and Construction businesses have workforces that will be affected if Britain leaves the EU. The positive news is that the employers have taken active steps to combat the potential impacts by rewriting contracts to ensure employees have stability until there is a more definite conclusion. In terms of job flow, there has been a surprising increase when compared to earlier this year, but most of this has come from the transactional HR space - senior roles are still few and far between. Similar to the Accounting & Finance market, businesses are really focusing on the talent they already have and placing an emphasis on retention rather than hiring externally.
Finance professionals who have strong business partnering skills coupled with the ability to influence and drive commercial value have been in demand, especially on the permanent market. In-house tax roles also remain prevalent, as companies look to ensure they have the right experience in place to help navigate any potential headaches around Brexit and a deal with HMRC. At the transactional end, where cash flow remains tight, there is still a requirement for good Credit Controllers. Temporary finance professionals with ‘hands-on’ SME experience have benefited from organisations wanting to hire people who can hit the ground running and add value from day one. Unsurprisingly, there has been a desire to recruit professionals with Brexit related project experience, as well as knowledge of system implementations and business partnering.
HRBPs, HR system roles and Talent & Resourcing roles and the relevant skills have dominated in recent months, this is due to the current economic climate and the need to drive profit, reduce spend and attract new talent. Most activity in these areas has been on the permanent side - the upcoming IR35 changes appear to be deterring organisations from hiring temporary HR professionals.
Workplace wellness is gaining serious momentum across the South West as employers look for increasingly creative ways of securing and retaining talent. Organisations that aren’t offering a range of initiatives aimed at boosting the wellbeing of their employees risk falling behind their competitors. Having appropriate strategies in place demonstrates a strong value based culture which can be helpful in attracting and retaining the top professionals.
As we head towards the end of 2019, the lack of clarity surrounding Brexit will continue to be a hindrance for organisations looking to grow their business within European markets - Retail, Manufacturing and FMCG have been negatively impacted but there has been growth across Legal, Technology and Insurance. Despite the uncertainty, many businesses are making preparations for varying outcomes and there remains a level of optimism and an appetite for growth. Human Resources will continue to be dominated by Brexit, but IR35 is also going to heavily affect the contract market.
Regardless of discipline, it is essential for job seekers to be focused in the job search and be willing to adapt in these unusual times. Keep in touch with a recruiter, highlight commercial skills on CVs and in any interviews and make sure to display how you match an organisation’s values.
Contributors to the South West update: