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Oakleaf Market Insight – Encouraging Resilience in the Commerce and UK Wide Markets

A fortnight ago, I reflected on a need to surround ourselves with as much optimism and positivity as possible to face the challenges that lie ahead. As we come to terms with the prospect of a second (and hopefully shorter) lockdown period, this optimism appears to have been joined by a healthy dose of grit and resilience. We seem to be having a classic British stiff upper lip response to it. Conversations with clients, candidates and our management team have revealed a refusal to be deflated and determination to see this through to a brighter finish. The tone seems to be very much “let’s get on with it” and that is certainly the theme that has emerged from various conversations and meetings this week.

Businesses seem ready. We learned through lockdown. The first period enabled a new way of working, agile and from home, embracing the tech available to make it happen. The second and forthcoming period sees organisations going into it well set up and wanting to recruit. Refreshingly in our specialist fields, people are easing off the corporate veneer and revealing a more human, engaging side on video calls as they juggle children, pets, and other halves with their working from home schedules! We are looking through a window into people’s lives and being able to appreciate everyone’s own priorities and challenges. It is enabling a depth of understanding and relationship that will be critical in helping one another move through the next phase of regrowth.

The City feels positive. Our financial services team report on clients wanting to recruit, notably in banking, and processes moving forward. We are seeing an even split between junior and senior roles registered. People are talking about talent acquisition again and we have some round table events set up for this specialist group, demand for which continues to be the gauge of how our industry is faring. Professional services, likewise, are busier, especially in the consultancy space albeit with the time between various stages of recruitment a little slow. Amy Morris shares her insights in the broader commerce sectors below, as does Rebecca Lancelles-Foskett from a UK wide point of view.

Our specialist markets teams are experiencing increasing demand to hire. The impending implementation of CRD V is on the lips of many reward professionals and job numbers in this space, especially within the City have increased and levels have held steady. It feels like more is coming through.

We are experiencing steady growth in job numbers, encouragingly at all levels and a gradual rise in temporary jobs. The number of direct job adverts, whilst seeming erratic from the graph below (Source: Vacancysoft), continues to show a steady increase. Summer holidays, breaks post lockdown and recent half term account for most of the downward spikes. Overall, we are seeing a gradual return towards pre-COVID numbers in direct hiring.

Despite the news over the weekend, optimism remains high. Having gone through one period of lockdown and emerged battle scarred, we are wiser, more experienced, and ready to keep growing through the next.

Commerce & Industry Insight

Amy Morris Profile Image

The last few months have in some ways felt like a completely different market. Similarly, to a lot of our customers, we have welcomed back our furloughed colleagues with open arms. It has been truly energising to be able to reconnect with everyone. As I write this, I am sure that lots of organisations are reviewing their position on lockdown number 2 and what that means for them. I am hopeful that due to the hard work in April this will be a more seamless process for all.

Whilst the actual number of roles that we are working on has remained steady over the last 2-4 months the speed to hire has increased hugely. We are seeing more mid-level interim and contract roles on the market with clients taking advantage of an increase in talent which is immediately available. Remote interviewing and onboarding have become the ‘norm’ as have client shortlists lifting the restriction of where a candidate lives – proving remote working has some huge commercial benefits. We have seen an increase in roles with a more regional remit and clients reviewing their centralised models to ensure that they are offering optimum service to the business.

Currently 18% of our portfolio has been within the not for profit market. The education and charitable sectors have been the most active so far with lots demonstrating real innovation in the new world they are having to operate in. Our clients have favoured the flexibility that contracts offer and typically have been looking for senior generalist skill sets.

The remainder of the roles we have been working on are split almost 50/50. Following the recent joining of our Industry & Science and Consumer teams we are delighted to say that we are mirroring the external market when it comes to industry split. Industry, Science and Consumer account for 39% of our roles. This market has been more focused towards hiring those who can implement change. This has been processes and policies, the introduction or rejuvenation of wellbeing and diversity strategies, relocation of roles as well as broader transformation projects. We have been able to partner on a few larger projects with clients who are embarking on organisational wide change programs hiring multiple resource.

TMT is still the most buoyant market contributing 43% of those roles. However, whilst there has similarly been a preference to hire on an interim basis, we have seen a drive towards day rate roles over contract. The generalist skill set has been in great demand with over 60% of our roles falling within this discipline. It’s not all growth, however. The last two months have seen the unfortunately predicted redundancy roles come through, particularly in the more production lead media clients. In contrast to this our technology clients are crying out for recruiters with niche tech skill sets, particularly those with language skills.

Due to the increase in demand to innovate across wellbeing and diversity we are hosting two networking round tables in November on these subjects so please reach out if you would like to be part of this. Each member of the Commerce and Industry and Not for Profit teams have taken the opportunity over the next two weeks to highlight in more detail what they are seeing in their markets so keep an eye out of this on our Oakleaf website and LinkedIn pages.

UK Wide Insight

Since my last update, our regional business has recorded our biggest job number since lockdown 1 (as we go to press, we are about to launch into lockdown 2!) and the roles on offer span multiple client hubs across the Midlands, North, and Scotland.

This week we saw our first role in hospitality since March and we continue to be busy in reward and analytics and HR business partnering. The demand for strategic HR professionals continues and the search for top talent remains a challenge due to market uncertainty and fear of leaving a stable and safe role at the latter stages of the year. Whilst direct hiring remains the preferred option with our clients, we have secured roles over the past few weeks due to our networks. Our ability to provide both interim and permanent options at a time when time is of the essence can clients with a quick solution . In the last few weeks, we have noticed an increase in fixed term contract positions to cover maternity leaves, this has been a promising sign on what has been a quiet interim period for this time of year. Our Thames Valley location has seen an increase in permanent HR business partnering opportunities within engineering, education and professional services and it has been promising to see more senior HR appointments in this region. Finding strong candidates in this area proves a challenge but clients have started to offer relocation packages to attract top talent to these geographies.

The interesting trend since my last update is the flexibility of our clients. 50% of our current HR positions can be based in several hubs in the UK. This means that a candidate can be considered for these roles not only in London but their other offices in Birmingham, Manchester, York, or Edinburgh. This is allowing a multitude of choice when it comes to candidate talent, experience, and compensation. Clients are looking at all their office locations in their portfolio and looking to add more employees to such hubs. It is interesting to note that it doesn’t matter where you live! Clients are looking for employees to be in the office three days a week with the remaining days from home, but it is allowing more choice for those people who live in the Midlands and North and don't want to commute to London for those senior HR appointments.

As a regional business, we can offer a diverse network that spans all locations outside of London and we have successfully placed HR professionals in recent weeks who have relocated because they have secured their dream job in the Midlands!!

In a few weeks, we are running our "Regions Spotlight Week" where we will have interviews with our team, discuss current trends and speak to some HR professionals who have started new roles in a remote capacity through lockdown.

We embark on uncertain times with another lockdown a few days away, but it has been heartening to see the appetite to hire across HR in the regions, the desire to hire the best people and continuation to grow their businesses.

Oakleaf Talent Talks update:

Jenny Scrivener has put together more fascinating feature for our Talent Talks series with more to come this week

Please do refer to our Oakleaf Partnership LinkedIn page or click on the links below if you haven't had a chance to watch these yet:

Episode 7 - Leading Teams Post Furlough with Helen Croft

Article - The Highs and Lows of Being an Interim

Our next Market Insight will focus on Oakleaf Executive and our view on the executive and international HR  and reward markets.

Simon Hunt
Managing Director

Tel: 0207 220 7030 | Mob: 07739804159

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