Hard times for reward?
2011 was a difficult year for reward. Both permanent and interim reward recruitment began solidly. Then the Eurozone crisis arrived – and with it an adverse impact on confidence in all recruitment markets, particularly in the financial services sector in the UK and across Europe.
Challenging times need to be put into context. For many years, there has been a strong growth in demand for reward professionals. The need for reward skills began with a handful of FTSE 100 businesses back in the 1990s. Today, there’s a greatly increased volume of recruitment for reward roles and it’s hard to find a FTSE mid-250 business without one.
What skills are required?
If you’re looking to get into reward, strong compensation experience is essential and provides a firm foundation for salary survey work and the annual pay round. Experience in handling benefits, exposure to pensions administration and understanding insured benefits are other important elements.
The reward profession is no longer the back room of the HR department. There’s clearly a need for a deep and broad knowledge across taxation, social security, share schemes, pensions and employment legislation, but you’ll need to match this with a sharp, analytical mind combined with excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
You’ll be expected to understand and demonstrate your knowledge of reward and its impact and influence on your organisation with considerable fluency.
Mastering these and other skills should lead to interesting new opportunities. In reward these are many and varied: for example, in the financial services sector, recent FSA regulations on remuneration mean a demand for those who know their way around the regulatory maze, while one big area of opportunity is international global mobility, with a necessity from a greater number of UK businesses to trade in emerging markets driving demand.
Progressing your career
Failure to demonstrate a business-friendly mind-set is the most common reason why many careers in reward reach a plateau. It’s common, for example, for analysts to move steadily to a salary of around £70k a year but then get no further. In the current climate, with the HR department clearly seen as a cost centre and hence under pressure, those who stagnate may be at risk.
While there are many opportunities in reward, we’re also seeing some reward roles being restructured out of the business. When this happens, those with the most narrowly focused skills will have the poorest job prospects.
To get ahead in your reward career, you will need to show a broader skill-set and also continuously adapt and grow as you progress, because all businesses will continue to evolve and change. If you can demonstrate mental agility with the technical skills at an early stage in your career, the future is likely to be exciting, stimulating and ultimately rewarding.
Recruitment trends in reward
Reward professionals will continue to develop an identity distinct from their HR peers. While nobody’s immune from the impact of economic uncertainty, the best, with proper training investment, will not only develop new skills but can break their careers out of their back-office orientation into front-line reward business partner roles.
In spite of the economic ambiguity, there will be some reassuring factors underpinning demand in the year ahead. The willingness of a greater number of businesses to trade internationally will drive the demand for international reward expertise, with organisations keen to know how best to reward talent fairly and consistently across borders. Global mobility specialists continue to be in high demand as UK businesses focus their sales and growth efforts in BRIC (Brazil, Russia India & China) markets.