Monday October 22, 2018
(Image credit: Curtis MacNewton/Unsplash)
A lively market, the growth of disrupters, the quest for the next generation of digital talent, Brexit anxieties… and learning the ukulele.
These are just some of the things that defined 2017-18 for Vana Resourcing. With the recent conclusion of our business year, co-directors Debbie Flowers and Jo White give an assessment of the current HR landscape based on Vana’s candidate and client connections from over 15 years as specialists - plus several more in the industry.
1. How would you describe the marketplace currently? Is it similar or different to 12 months ago? What sectors are particularly active?
The marketplace remains buoyant with organisational change and transformation still dominating many of our corporate clients’ agendas. Consequently we’ve been busy supporting them to drive up capability across the people cycle.
Once again we’ve worked with a diverse range of organisations from the small owner-managed businesses, to SMEs with either domestic or international outlooks, to FTSE/Nasdaq-listed organisations. These are businesses active in an equally varied range of sectors – FMCG, Retail, Hospitality, Professional Services, Pharmaceuticals, Telcos, Engineering, Chemicals and, increasingly, Digital.
Talent attraction and development has been a key trend over the past 12 months, and we’ve made several senior hires to global organisations as they invest in their talent and Employee Value Proposition (EVP). We’ve hired a steady number of experienced HR leaders in the HRD/CPO space and a similar volume of Senior HRBPs - a talent pool consistently in high demand. Whilst demand for specialists fluctuates and the need for Global L&D specialists remains constant, this year we’ve hired an increasing number of Heads of Resourcing & EVP, Group Directors of Reward, and Employee Engagement & Experience roles.
Alongside the big corporates, it’s been good to see an increased demand for a first HRD or Chief People Officer role from smaller ‘disrupter’ businesses. ‘Disrupters’ is the buzzword of the moment and we’re seeing rapid growth of these businesses (typically venture capital or private equity-backed) in the marketplace as they prepare to make an initial public offering. We’ve worked with their executive teams on hires that build and develop the culture and organisation, and ultimately help them achieve their aspirations. They may well be disrupters but they can’t succeed without the right talent!
2. Have you seen a change in the qualities and skills that clients expect of candidates?
The prevailing trend seems to be a search for digital talent and those who can work at pace. Candidates need to be agile, adaptable to change, and able to ‘sweep and soar’ – combining strategic thought leadership with a willingness to make it happen and get hands-on when necessary.
Many of the FTSE/NASDAQ corporate clients we work with also now demand candidates with multinational and/or global experience; people who can demonstrate a track record in successfully building stakeholder relationships across complex matrix organisations. They also need to achieve the difficult balancing act of communicating with and engaging a global employee audience across different time zones, taking into account cultural nuances and all the while offering a consistent employee experience.
3. We’ve seen a recent emphasis on employee value proposition, digitisation of the workplace, organisational change, and mobility. Is this still the case?
Absolutely. As we’ve said, aligning the employee engagement strategy with a consistent employee experience remains a priority for most, and digital talent continues to be in demand. The challenge for companies is finding that talent - and connecting with the next generation of talent coming through. The trick is to be at the forefront of identifying this pool, and engaging with them so that they’re future-ready (has workforce planning ever been more critical?). We’re also seeing our clients evolve their work in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) space. In particular, technology companies are building internal AI capability to ‘heat map’ the market, and identify and bank talent in niche skill areas.
As you’d expect, diversity is now firmly part of the lexicon of business. Consequently we’re starting to see the effects of the push for diversity, particularly amongst our corporate clients, recognising that diversity of thought comes from diversity of talent. This has sometimes involved us challenging preconceptions and delivering our client ‘Unconscious Bias’ training.
4. In March 2018 we reported on the biggest challenges facing candidates and clients. If you could identify one thing that both are currently having to deal with what would that be?
For clients, it’s two things; maintaining an engaged, productive workforce whilst dealing with Brexit and anticipating its likely impact. For candidates it’s the same as before - the holy grail of balancing life and career. We have the technology and opportunity that previous generations could only dream of. However, this also means that life is so busy now and we are switched ‘on’ all of the time. For candidates the twin pressures of achieving aspirations whilst enjoying a good quality of life remains the most challenging of juggling acts.
5. Brexit has been on the agenda now for some time but, with the March 2019 exit date looming, is this starting to feel more ‘real’ for business from your experience?
We’re seeing anticipation, hesitancy, frustration... Probably how everyone’s feeling at the moment wherever they stand on the debate.
6. What are your hopes and aspirations for Vana Resourcing over the next 12 months?
Vana is 14 years old now. But whilst the world has changed around us, we want to remain true to our founding principles; to continue to forge rewarding relationships, receive great feedback and keep ourselves - and our brand - fresh and relevant. We love the variety and diversity of assignments we get to work on, and the great people we get to work with, so long may this continue. Additionally, Debbie has just become a Virgin StartUp Mentor as part of a desire to do pro bono work for some of the young bright minds out there with great ideas. So plenty to look forward to as we head into our 15th year.
7. Describe your favourite achievement away from the office in 2018.
Jo: In our half year review I mentioned the twin challenge of taking up the bass ukulele and singing – and, seven months later, rate this as one of my greatest achievements of the last year. As part of a band, I took part in a charity fundraiser playing to an audience of hundreds (well it felt like it anyway). It was pretty daunting to be up on stage and things weren’t quite alright on the night - sound, instruments… let’s just say it didn’t quite come together in musical harmony. But whilst it felt like a disaster at the time, looking back on this now it actually feels like a huge achievement. Why? Because we kept going and kept smiling, the audience were fantastic - and the event raised £3,200 for Dorothy House Hospice Care. Above all though, I’ve realised that it’s okay to fail. We focus too much on achievements in life but without failure how can we measure those achievements, and how do we ever learn and become better?
Debbie: I set out to master paddleboarding and have certainly improved. There have been some sublime weekends on the coast, and I’m now paddling steadily on moderate waves and enjoying the more tranquil waters in and around Bath when at home (Yoga has certainly made a difference). My twin children made the transition to senior school which felt like an amazing moment (where did those 11 years go?), and I’m very excited about a new venture for Jo and I whereby we’ve acquired a small property in North Devon as a holiday let investment. It’s a beautiful part of the world - and another little interior design project for me!
8. And finally, which charity is Vana supporting this year?
We are supporting the RNLI. It’s an amazing iconic organisation that needs little introduction. It’s also a cause that has become more relevant given the amount of time we spend on the beaches of the south west with our families. We’re always grateful that the children are overseen and well-advised, so this is one way of showing our appreciation in return.
Vana Resourcing supports businesses and HR professionals alike to build rewarding futures. Over 2018-19 we look forward to developing existing industry relationships, and meeting new clients and candidates through our extensive network. We’ll also continue to share the type of exciting opportunities that you’ve read about here via our website and LinkedIn page. Jo or Debbie are contactable either by phone (01225 487201) or email - info@vanaHRresourcing.co.uk.