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What are the current trends across the HR market?


Financial Services / Professional Services

Hiring within finance & the professions remains relatively buoyant overall, notably in the junior to mid-management level market. The entry level and junior markets are extremely buoyant, with solid competition for high calibre candidates. Clients going through global or functional change projects, often as a result of merger or integration, are beginning to require more strategic support on an interim basis, perhaps driven by the lack of movement at the top of the permanent market. Senior leaders are staying put and as such senior and executive level permanent hiring has been more cautious.

We have witnessed a return of confidence in Banking, whilst the large banks are hiring again, permanent recruiting processes are proving cumbersome. As such, the risk of losing potential hires in an increasingly candidate driven market to smaller, niche financial services organisations who are acting quickly and securing top talent, has increased significantly.

Asset Management remains our busiest sector, with continued appetite for commercially focused HR business partners and generalists. The Insurance sector, especially within the Lloyd’s Market, continues to experience considerable M&A and change activity, and as such we are seeing high demand for specialist roles in recruitment, talent and learning.

Professional services have seen the Big Four recruiting actively and we have also noticed increasing demand in boutique consultancy clients, especially in the learning, talent and recruitment space. Law firms are continuing to hire and are still insistent on experience from similar sectors, where firms across broader professional services are increasingly open to different sector backgrounds.

Our interim division have seen a consistently high demand for fixed term contract roles, with demand for day rate roles making up circa 40% of our portfolio. Continued regulatory pressures mean that SMCR, GDPR and Gender Pay Reporting is high on the agenda for many of our clients. Delivery of regulatory projects has been a key focus and has driven requests for seasoned interims with a delivery focus to manage delivery to impending deadlines.


Many of our clients across industry emulate the activity that we have reported on in finance and the professions. We have seen a high volume of assignments paying up to 50k (permanent and interim), and they in turn mean there is a high demand for quality talent at this level. The battle to find these individuals means we have seen roles moving incredibly quickly particularly across recruitment – jobs being raised and completed in a week! Whilst roles at the 50-100k level have remained steady the market feels slower, if not slightly protracted. Organisations are extending or slowing down the interview process due to increased degrees of caution around what we can only describe as the Brexit effect. This “effect” is certainly not set in stone however – limbo seems to the phrase of the moment.

The technology sector is experiencing marked demand for delivery recruiters with increasing need for those with exec hiring experience. The demand for these recruiters (who are only too aware of their value) is pushing their compensation sky high. Firms need to think about investing in the future and being more open to hiring direct from agency where the talent pool is active and hungry.

There has been renewed interest in diversity and inclusion with the requirement for candidates to implement functions and also expand current processes, whilst being more forward thinking and innovative. We have seen a large appetite to share knowledge across this space between our clients, and this has linked heavily into talent planning strategies for next year. Please do get in touch if you are interested in joining any D&I forums.

Across charity and the third sector as a whole it has been very busy with a lot of movement at “head of” level. Many of these roles are tied into impending organisational restructures/OD projects.

The senior interim space is steady. The majority of assignments are heavily project related rather than BAU cover. Projects have included audits of operational/dated HR processes, scoping organisational restructures, TUPE and organisational design, working with start-ups to ensure the right infrastructure is imbedded to allow for high impact growth and development.

Oakleaf Executive

The £100k plus market has been a story of two halves to some degree. Pre-election there was not much activity and it seemed that the mandates that were in the market were taking an incredibly long time to come to fruition. Many were delaying appointments or simply cancelling the process. Post election we have seen a real uptick in roles coming to market, particularly at the £100-150k level. Individuals are being engaged with multiple opportunities, and the process seems to have sped up too which is very welcome news. The increase in activity has not opened up briefs – they remain very specific around industry and technical experience and stakeholders will be prepared to wait longer and pay more for the right person. Talent/OD/OE is busy and as such salaries seem to be on the rise here. The £150k + market is certainly much quieter. Emulating the comments earlier around the interim market all assignments want people with proven change success and with an appetite for more – is BAU gone for ever?

Part time

We have seen an obvious dip in the number of senior part time roles on the market (£60k +) and the majority of roles have been at the more junior level. There has not been any specific technical bias, so we have seen assignments across all specialisms – L&D, recruitment, reward and generalist HR. The professions are still the number one customer in this space. These organisations are absolutely championing the part time HR recruitment market and therefore benefiting from their innovative approach to sourcing the desired talent. The other two notable sectors that are starting to come to the fore from a flexible working standpoint are the third sector and FMCG.

We’ve seen a rise in the number of contract roles as opposed to previous 6- 12 months where over 80% were perm opportunities.

Interestingly we have seen an increase in direct hiring in the part time market. There seems to be an increase in the volume of work in the market, with nonspecific part time recruiters also working on mandates. This highlights the fact there is greater awareness across the market and although frustrating for Oakleaf, bodes well for the development of more opportunities in the market.


The major trend for Q2 (and beyond) in the Interim market is projects and change - BAU recruitment has taken a back seat with project delivery coming to the forefront, in particular M&A activity, HRIS and systems implementations and regulatory projects. The Senior Manager’s Regime, Gender Pay Gap reporting, and the upcoming GDPR data change have driven requests for seasoned interims with a delivery focus to manage delivery to impending deadlines.

Our C&I Interim team have seen a large variety of roles in this quarter, a positive sign in the market when clients are investing in projects such as Diversity and Inclusion, TUPE, Recruitment and Change. Over in the Financial & Professional Services sector, hiring seems focused around needing extra support for maternity, workload and holiday cover rather than new strategic development.

Unsurprisingly due to the time of year, the Reward Interim market is incredibly active as year end preparations take place and firms need assistance to tackle the workload. With regards to Payroll, the buzzword of the moment seems to be implementation, with many clients implementing new Payroll systems and paying a premium for high demand previous systems expertise.

OP in the Midlands

The general consensus is that the region is experiencing healthy growth and we have seen many companies building new HR teams. Since the summer there has specifically been a spike in activity in financial and professional services.

The technical specialisms of resourcing, talent, L&D and recruitment are all areas in demand currently.

It is becoming an increasingly candidate driven market and there is still a lack of good HRBPs. There are a lot of roles about and candidates can pick & choose. Candidates are open to discussing opportunities but we are finding talented candidates are not applying to job adverts but are more engaged when we approach them directly about specific roles, so we are having fantastic success with the quality of candidates for retained assignments.

Reward / Analytics / Payroll / Human Capital Services

Reward & Analytics

The market has seen a notable increase in hiring volumes in the first half of the 2017/18 financial year. The mid- senior market has seen high demand for experienced reward manager/senior reward managers between £60,000-£90,000. Whilst the focus for most roles have been relatively generic, there has been a notable increase in requirements for individuals with strong sales incentive skills and share plan management experience. The reward analyst market remains active, with notable candidate shortages, which in turn is seeing salaries increase as firms bid to try and attract the best talent. The senior reward market has been encouragingly active, but interestingly the focus has been on investment hires within SME environments trying to bolster their reward offering rather than large scale firms seeing movement at a senior level. Overall whilst there is positivity across the reward profession, there remains a sense of trepidation regarding Brexit and whether firms are trying to bolster their reward capability in advance of potential hiring challenges nearer March 2019.

The analytics arena has been active, but the focus remains interim hires rather than perm. We have seen some large international firms go through new HRIS implementations that have required some high profile senior hires. Contract options for firms looking to get more out of their HRIS and better-quality MI remains a continuous theme.


The last 6 months has been our most successful to date. The team have worked and completed a record number of assignments from what is a growing blend of industry. The increase in job volume has been consistent across permanent and interim hiring, with a significant bias in the interim world for systems implementation and as such the salaries on offer have been rather attractive!

There has been continued growth in the permanent market as the diversity of our customers continues to develop. As our brand has become synonymous with top quality hiring in the Payroll market we are naturally attracting more of the highest calibre professionals. We have run a number of high-touch networking events over this period and the ongoing feedback, in regard to attendance and content, is very pleasing to hear. We took an active part in the CIPP awards in October and look forward to continuing to support them in their relocation to Birmingham next year.

Human Capital Services

With the current political climate in-house mobility roles have been the lowest that we can remember in recent times. It certainly remains an agenda item, it just seems to be more operationally led rather than having the strategic influence it once had. The interesting fact is that talent mobility is at its lowest since 1950 so it should be a strategic focus. One trend we have seen recently has been the interest in contractors - are we about to witness mobility entering the “gig economy?”

On the flip side we have seen a big uptake in immigration roles. Migration rates are constantly under scrutiny, making it more and more difficult to look across borders to get the best talent.


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