Would you take your HR career outside London? (part 1 of 3)

Written by
Changeboard Team

24 Sep 2012

24 Sep 2012 • by Changeboard Team

The HR world beyond London

We have all experienced the commuter blues – overcrowding on the tube; waiting for a train that was due an hour ago; sitting in a tailback on the M25. We're sure you’ve asked yourself the question – surely there is more to life?

Without doubt London offers huge amounts of opportunity and with the predominance of the financial services sector it also offers the most attractive salaries, but is it worth it? Many put up with the commute in the belief that there is no suitable alternative closer to home. Is that really the case?

In this three-part series, we’ll look at: what types of businesses operate outside of London – is your industry represented? How remuneration varies – could you afford to take a local role? What does the recruitment process look like? – does the hiring process vary and what is typical at the moment?

What industries are buoyant?

We recruit HR professionals across Dorset, Hampshire, Middlesex and Surrey for a variety of sectors and industries. Some businesses in these counties are influenced by factors such as ports and harbours on the South Coast and Heathrow airport in Middlesex.

Dorset is home to a number of the large financial services businesses, yet 10% of Dorset’s economy is made up of businesses operating in the agricultural sector (ONS 2010 figures).

The financial services sector is the largest contributor to the Surrey economy (45% of the total Surrey Gross Value Added) and the public sector is the second biggest contributor with 20% GVA (www.surreycc.go.uk).

There is no denying that some industries are faring better than others. The following graph shows the spread of industries and sectors that our vacancies have come from over the past 12 months:

HR Heads graph

What HR professionals are in demand?

The bulk of vacancies are coming from the financial services, professional services, and IT & technology sectors. 

Businesses in these sectors are making considerable structural and cultural changes to stay ahead in their markets and be competitive on a global scale. As a result we are seeing a significant increase in the number of specialist roles. Reward, compensation and benefits roles have always commanded a premium salary and with the tightening of the economy, these specialists are being called into prominence even more over the past 12 months to build engagement and recognition for employees on a cost conscious budget.  

There is also a demand for change managers; specialists who can both technically manage a change project, often with union consultation and involvement, and handle the harmonisation and cultural bedding-in thereafter. The volumes of employees these projects are impacting require multi-sited, often internationally experienced individuals to manage them. Change projects that involve significant mergers of departments and central services in a cost saving exercise and the need to preserve the sense of employee belonging is a key element to the change manager’s role.

The final area experiencing significant change for HR professionals is the rise in demand for contract assignments, albeit for generalist manager or business partner roles. Businesses are recruiting on a short-term project basis. Whether this is further nervousness about the growth of our economy and a reluctance to commit budgets in the long-term; or a desire to have projects managed by extra resources allowing the existing permanent workforce to focus on their remits remains to be seen. It's a situation we are monitoring and will come back to in our following two articles.

Are any areas in decline?

In stark contrast, there has been a marked decline in opportunities coming from the manufacturing, retail and construction sectors. The British Retail Consortium has just released its August figures and the interpretation is that the Olympic Games impacted negatively on trade (Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG). 

The housing markets remain stagnant and construction for the domestic market has slowed as a consequence. The strength of the GB Pound has also made our exports relatively expensive to those businesses operating within the Eurozone. All of these factors have influenced the opportunities for HR professionals in these sectors.

The impact of public sector cuts

It is no surprise that there are fewer new HR roles within the Public Sector, with Central Government budget cuts and the subsequent tsunami of belt tightening throughout. 

However, some businesses are seeing increased opportunities from the outsourcing activity of key contracts.  It should also be noted that there has been some opportunity within the higher education sector as the impact of fee-paying students is felt by the Chancellors and the demand for return on investment is strong from prospective students and now families funding those students.  Competition for places is still high, but on the flip side, the Universities now find themselves competing for the best students. HR has its most high profile position for years in these organisations now, with many looking at performance related pay for the first time.  

HR market a wealth of opportunities

There are opportunities for individuals to develop their careers within the HR market with a wide variety of industries represented. 

HR departments are not immune to the pressures of operating efficiently and impacting the ‘bottom line’, and increasingly we are asking candidates to highlight this. HR as a function is always seen as a cost to the business; a great HR professional will show how whilst they might not make money for the company, they certainly can save it money and this applies everywhere, not just in London.

In our next article, we will consider salary levels, how these compare inside and outside London, and how this may impact your next HR move.

About Jennifer Gaster

JG USE THISJen leads the team across Hampshire & Dorset, placing senior HR talent into permanent and contract positions.

About Andy Lavey

Andy Lavey smallAndy leads the team across Middlesex & Surrey, specialising in placing highly experienced HR professionals into permanent and contract positions.