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Want to attract top talent in challenging times? Be bold!

Given all of the uncertainty sweeping us currently, the Professional Services market has been accordingly hard to predict in recent months.

Hiring conditions are understandably circumspect. Some clients are reporting a 30% drop in open hires, others are moving recruiting plans to the New Year with the impending election and you-know-what adding a note of caution to an already unpredictable recruitment climate.

There is good news though! Professional Services is the sector still bucking the trend from a hiring point of view. In the face of challenging conditions, job numbers overall remain relatively robust. A surge in demand for recruiters earlier this year has been replaced by increasing demand for HR Business Partners in the mid to senior markets and interestingly, HR Advisors with strong ER experience. After a relatively sluggish late summer and early autumn, we are experiencing higher job numbers than at the beginning of the financial year.

There are further challenges of course. Candidates are nervous to move ahead of potential bonus payments in January and firms are in the throes of year-end performance and reward reviews which are impacting on the speed of processes. Days between CV review, 1st and further interview stages are turning into weeks with good talent being lost as a result. One client recently commented that “we know we are not finding time and availability to move quickly enough so we run the risk of losing people”.

So, is there an opportunity to be had amongst these challenging conditions and the stifling fog of uncertainty? If you’re prepared to be brave, then absolutely!

For years, professional services firms have been labelled as slow to react, insistent on like-for-like hiring in a candidate-driven market and fishing from an increasingly shallow pool of candidates.

Prior to our decision last year to launch a specialist professional services team to service a progressively buoyant market, I partnered with a number of firms to recruit HR specialists in the insurance space. There are interesting parallels which can offer a vision of what some professional services HR functions can look forward to if they are brave enough to pursue a different approach.

Insurance firms in the Lloyd’s market were traditionally seen as risk-averse, steady-state and “order takers” from an HR point of view. Change was needed and risks had to be taken. Firms experienced a significant change in the shape and direction of their HR strategy and set up. Out went the emphasis on like-for-like hiring and drawn-out processes. In came an onus on faster time to hire and HR specialists from sectors adept at change. Retail, technology and banking specialists practiced HR that added value to their clients’ commercial priorities and broader performance and engagement levels.

With change comes disruption, challenge and also opportunity. The trend in professional services HR is one of change, restructuring and evolution. To truly embrace this, firms need to be quicker and braver in hiring and considering candidates outside of the sector. Prioritising time and availability can be critical in securing top talent who can bring fresh ideas, energy and objectivity to effect real change. Otherwise, you will lose them.

Now is the time to be bold and we can see firms are starting to adopt the less trodden path. We are busy – helping firms to complete hiring plans ahead of the New Year and providing opportunities for candidates who want to secure their next move.

Please do get in touch if you’d like a conversation about hiring plans and the current market. We are always happy to help.

Gareth Evans

garethevans@oakleafpartnership.com

07957 655 093


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