2023 – what’s been happening in the market so far?

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The schools have gone back for the Autumn term, we’ve had a really busy summer and as we approach the end of the quarter, it’s been our best and busiest since HRLife began. September is usually when people start to ramp up their job search, new roles come on to the market and clients start thinking about three month notice periods for those January starts … all signs that we hope signal a typically busy period over the next couple of months, before (dare we say it) Christmas starts to take hold!

As we sit here to put together a few insights on what’s been happening in the HR recruitment market year to date and reflecting on all the conversations we’ve had and the stories we’ve heard, it would be fair to say at times that despite a pretty busy summer at the mid-market level, overall it’s been a tricky 2023, particularly at the more senior end of the market. We’ve heard talk of the “recruitment black hole” and “ghosting”, frustrating low-ball offers and many longer, slower processes, some of which result in an internal popping up at the final stages or indeed the role going back to scratch and the process starting over. Inevitably much of what we’ve seen has been brought about by all the uncertainty in the economy, the cost-of-living crisis etc – how many times did we “avoid recession” and how would this have impacted the mindset of senior leaders when hiring?  

When we look back over the years we’ve spent in the recruitment market, it follows that as soon as you hear about difficult economic conditions, certain things eventually play out in the job market. Longer processes often with testing, psychometrics and presentations appear, in the belief that this will secure “the very best” person. Businesses start to look for that 100% match, a tick in every box, and of course, the feedback that we’ve heard the most so far this year, hiring managers relying on that comfort blanket of “sector experience”. We all know and talk about the HR skill set being transferable across sectors, but in our experience as soon as a market tightens this belief is replaced by the necessity to have previous sector experience. Hopefully, this will change again soon!

But it’s not been all doom and gloom!

As we alluded to earlier, we’ve had a busier summer period than anticipated, with the market definitely buoyant at the £40-£70k level.  We’ve worked with some great clients growing their teams across a real mix of sectors and seen some super slick processes leading to great candidate experiences. For us, the HR marketplace has been particularly busy sub £70k and there have been days we’d wished it was possible to clone HR BPs used to working in a CoE model and HR Managers with experience of working in an SME!  

We often get asked if we’re in a client or candidate-led recruitment market and perhaps the simplest way we can answer this is to say that senior candidates will likely be feeling that the pendulum has swung the way of the client, but the sub 70k market has been in favour of the candidate in our experience.  Slicker processes, high engagement throughout, competitive reward packages and of course, hybrid working have been critical in securing the best in this market.

So, what have we seen high on HR job seekers priority lists?

As you might expect with the cost of living rising, reward packages are increasingly important, flexibility is still key and we’ve seen more people wanting to work for values-led, purpose-driven businesses that put their people first. In contrast to this, we’re hearing more stories about companies moving to bring their people back into the office 3-4+ days a week, but as you can probably imagine there’s still a lot of reluctance from many to do this – it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out from an attraction and retention perspective.  Will we ever go back to pre-Covid work patterns?

What’s ahead as we approach the end of the year?

Well, we’re sure we’ll continue to see the mid-market churning. We’re hearing more positive snippets about the London market starting to get busier, so hopefully this will continue and the senior market follows. What will be interesting to see, and time will tell on this, is the impact that the current job seekers who have been put through unnecessarily lengthy processes, or ghosted or not given feedback will have when they secure their next role – our guess is they’ll have something positive to add to their next employer’s hiring strategies! It will be interesting to see how the remainder of 2023 pans out and we look forward to sharing those insights.

Should you have any further comments about the market and your experiences then we’d love to hear them. 

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