Oakleaf UK Regional Market Insight – August 2021


We hope that everyone has been able to make the most of what has been a rather damp summer here in the UK. The weather has not given us much to cheer about, the bounce back that we have seen in the HR recruitment market has! I am delighted to announce that we are now back (and some!!) to pre-covid recruitment levels. The last few months have seen another surge in recruitment activity and direct advertising for HR vacancies has now reached 600 per week – almost double what we were seeing in January 2020.

Although HR jobs were in slight decline in Jan ’20 (post Brexit and the onset of IR35) this doubling of numbers just highlights how much we have moved on and the extent of opportunities in the market.

                                                                              (Source: Vacancysoft)

The demand for operational TA staff remains sky high across industry as organisations continue to try to manage their increased hiring internally. There is a real shortage of talent in this space and the workloads of those in seat is currently so high that many individuals are struggling to see the wood from the trees which means that they simply can’t find the time to consider moving even if they want to. This does of course start to drive up salaries and we are beginning to see this happening. There is also a drive for generalist / business partners (£40-100k) again across industry and certain pockets of the market are without doubt struggling for talent as demand outstrips supply.

It is brilliant to also see some recovery in the consumer sector although on the flip side we have seen more interest in ER roles over the last month – predominantly from sectors (linked to travel, retail and hospitality) still utilising the furlough which infers that organisations are preparing for significant change re staffing from October onwards. In highlighting certain sectors and industries here it is worth pointing out that the increase in activity is across the board so we are equally seeing improvements across learning, talent, reward and payroll.

Regional Market Insight

(Source: Vacancysoft)

Over the past 3 months we have really begun to see HR recruitment motor across all sectors. Out of London, we mirror, often on a slight lag, what we see happening in London. In May I wrote an article talking about the return to the office, and how that might pose a challenge as recruitment markets began to heat up. At the time I was saying that it might be a bit too premature to call it a candidate driven market. I can say now that we are firmly in a market where those seeking a new opportunity, have not had the choice available now, in well over a decade. For a lot of people there has never been a better time to look for a new role.

Across the Thames Valley, Midlands and North we have seen organisations, of all sizes, look to strengthen their TA functions, many of which were downsized over the past 18 months. Organisations in some instances are looking to re-invigorate paused projects, or indeed invest into taking market share. This has created a rush for talent and in turn created a candidate driven market. We have begun to see this cause some salary inflation, and indeed organisations that have been quite comfortable in their talent attraction processes, are now finding they have to differentiate their offering in a crowded market.

Alongside TA (and with the above in mind it probably won’t be of great surprise), we are also seeing an influx of compensation, benefits and reward roles, as organisations look to ensure their offerings and job architecture are fit for purpose. We are also seeing organisations across all sectors look to bolster their L&D functions, although the majority share of our roles lie in BAU generalist opportunities. Pleasingly we are seeing a good return to growth from the Consumer markets, as well as Professional Services and Financial Services.

Out of London we are being engaged frequently at the mid to senior level, with the majority of our opportunities falling into the £40-110k area. Permanent opportunities make up the majority of the roles we are working with, although with intense competition in the market, we are starting to see organisations need to look towards fixed term contractors and interims.

From a recruitment point of view our market is changing to be far more proactive from a candidate sourcing approach. Interestingly, whilst there are not and endless supply of good quality candidates waiting to apply to a job advert that an organisation or a recruiter posts, an overwhelming majority of passive candidates are reaching out to us. They are suggesting that whilst they are not active in the market, should the right role present itself, they would be open to a move. This, combined with stretched TA teams, means that partnering with well networked, specialist recruiters like ourselves, is proving to be the quickest and most cost effective way of onboarding the talent that organisations are crying out for at the moment.

September will be an interesting month, there is talk of it being the biggest resignation month we have seen in the UK in some time. Added to the fact that August, usually a slightly quieter month, has been incredibly busy, and with our vacancy numbers increasing month on month, the next few months could well become a candidate driven market across the board.

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