Like many parts of the world, Australia’s private sector is increasingly adopting the HR business partner model. Management consultancies have been pioneers of this model but larger corporations are now following suit.
While most HR Business Partners work on a permanent basis, overall most senior HR appointments are contract roles. The majority of these roles are either strategic, occupational organisational development or change management-focused positions.
For all other levels, we continue to see a strong mix of permanent and temporary/contract roles. Having said that, temporary engagement is preferred for recruitment roles and more entry-level HR roles.
We are also seeing increased hiring activity for Learning and Development (L&D) candidates, particularly those with experience in establishing L&D practices within an organisation.
However skill shortages exist across L&D and also workforce planning.
We have also seen an increase in demand for qualified HR professionals with generalist experience. Businesses are recognising the value these professionals can add to overall staff engagement. HR Generalists are also able to take on work that frees up more senior practitioners to focus on strategy, planning and change management.
During this quarter we expect considerable movement and demand in Work Health & Safety (WHS)/Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) in the construction sector particularly in March.
After a fairly long period of stability the WHS/OHS market for temporary and permanent candidates is picking up in line with an increase in construction project activity. Indeed, we expect to see a huge increase in the need for WHS candidates this year for roles in Government and blue-collar industries with construction leading the charge.
Companies going through system implementations and process improvements have been hiring HR talent to support these changes. Senior level candidates must have managed the end-to-end process of implementing systems or on other change management projects to be successful landing these roles.
At the entry level of the market, HR Services teams are hiring process driven, multi-tasking candidates. To succeed, candidates need a high attention to detail and strong skills in Excel and HR systems.
In terms of soft skills, communication and emotional intelligence top the list of requirements.
In the public sector, more HR contractors are being hired with the most easily to place candidates being those with relevant systems knowledge. With lots of change and transformation projects taking place, entry-level HR candidates with project experience are also in demand.
Meanwhile, Federal Government departments have been looking at their recruitment processes more strategically. They are taking a “back to basics” approach to reducing paperwork and streamlining processes in order to be more efficient and effective.
When hiring candidates, Government employers place as much importance on cultural fit as they do on skills and experience. Asking candidates to submit a one-page expression of interest rather than the traditional selection criteria document is a big part of the assessment process.
In geographical trends, universities in Western Australia are adopting HR partner models. The education sector in WA is becoming more globally competitive and as a result universities are undergoing organisational restructures creating the need for HR Business Partners.
In the Northern Territory the public sector market is buoyant but employers want candidates with prior experience in an NT government department. This is creating short-term HR roles when the ideal candidate cannot be found.
Skills in demand
In terms of the January to March quarter, HR Business Partners are in high demand to work closely with senior leaders in developing people strategies aligned to the business strategy. HR business partnering is becoming increasingly relevant to organisations wanting to break down silos and promote greater collaboration. High-level communication skills and good business acumen are essential to be successful in this role.
HR Managers with very commercial outlooks, a solid knowledge of wider business practices and an understanding of the bottom line are highly sought. HR Managers, as well as HR Generalists are in solid demand to oversee many of the operational responsibilities of busy HR departments to free up more senior staff to work on high-level strategy.
Workforce/HR Analytics candidates are always in short supply. Employers are looking to understand and work better with the data generated by their HR systems so are seeking HR candidates with an analytical or financial mindset or background.
HR Advisors are needed to underpin broader HR strategies and provide solid staffing support as well as to execute people strategies developed at a higher level.
We are seeing an increasing need for specialists to represent the business in engaging the workforce and stakeholders in best practice and negotiating with staff and employee groups. Roles in demand include Employee Relations Managers and Industrial Relations Specialists but an in-depth knowledge of Fair Work and investigations is expected even for those in entry-level roles.
Enterprise Business Analysts are enjoying a spike in demand both on a permanent and interim basis to help identify actionable strategies related to workforce planning.
Remuneration & Benefits (R&B) Specialists are being recruited by larger organisations to help develop and budget R&B programs and align these to workforce planning strategies.
High levels of business activity in construction is creating strong hiring activity for WHS/OHS candidates including $200,000 pa roles at the very senior level. Most hiring is permanent rather than temporary.
This quarter many organisations are expected to focus on culture change or new system implementations and improvements. This is expected to drive up demand for Senior HR professionals focused on change. Most of these roles are on a contract or interim basis.
Learning and Development is a fast growing area but the reasons behind hiring increases differ from one sector to another. For example, in the Oil & Gas sector, L&D is needed to train staff on meeting compliance requirements. In other sectors L&D programs are part of change management programs.
Organisational Development specialists are being hired in organisations undergoing restructures to create training to fill skill gaps.
Large HR teams within some government departments are generating fairly consistent hiring demand for HR Consultants and HR Officers.
HR Coordinators who can provide support for a range of activities such as recruitment, contracts and onboarding are needed too. Skills in demand include Workday, Taleo and other recruitment system expertise.
We have also seen an increase in the permanent hiring of Recruitment/Talent Managers. The talent being sought are not just transactional recruiters but candidates that can add value through strategic sourcing, driving the employee brand and articulating the employee value proposition.
HR professionals for Start-Up businesses to create teams and systems from the ground up remain a big area of hiring growth particularly for global businesses wanting to create an HR presence in Australia and New Zealand.
In the public sector, modifications were made last year to arrangements put in place in 2013 limiting the number of new appointments within Federal Government. As a result, we expect solid demand for APS Grade 3-4 Recruitment Administrators this quarter to assist with work related to an Australian Public Service Commission review of new and current roles.
We also expect high demand for L&D candidates in Sydney particularly Instructional Designers, L&D Managers, Organisational Development Consultants and e-Learning experts. Candidate levels in this area remain fairly strong.
HR Change Project Managers will also be a hiring priority this quarter.
Candidates are investing more in their own education and skill development to take advantage of high demand areas such as L&D, Workforce/HR Analytics and Workforce Planning.
In general, candidates are looking to gain variety in their role, not necessarily for career development reasons but to gain a fresh perspective or exposure to a new environment.
To the far south, we are seeing an influx of interstate candidates relocating to Tasmania for its terrific lifestyle as well as the broader career path on offer for HR professionals there. Tasmania is an amazing place to explore work-life balance. Permanent roles appear to be at that HR Advisor/HR Generalist level.