Career trends and must-have skills for 2016

Published on: 4 Jan 2016

Career trends and must-have skills for 2016

Stephanie Sparrow identifies the must- have skills for 2016

There’s a boom year ahead for HR careers as recruiters predict that organisations will be scouting for the expertise to help them retain the best people, lead change programmes and facilitate corporate growth.

However although the new job opportunities will be there, being positioned for career success in 2016 means anticipating the growth areas and proving that you have the must-have skills. Stay one step ahead with recruiters’ predictions and top tips, below.

Target growth sectors

Financial and professional services sectors have increased their interest in HR professionals, says John O’Connor, operating director at Michael Page Human Resources.

“And retail, media, technology, engineering and construction have all seen a good uplift this year,” he says. This is a trend echoed by Jemma Rawlins, director of HR service recruitment at Hudson. “We are also seeing businesses hire at a steady rate in the FMCG sector”, she says.

However, it might not be easy to move across sectors. “We are still seeing clients have a sector bias when recruiting, and holding out for perfect sector and skills fit”, says Kim MacNamara, group HR director at Ashley Kate.

Roles to look out for

Reward and benefits will be areas of opportunity for experienced HR professionals, says Barney Ely, director at Hays Human Resources, because organisations are focussing on these in order to attract talent and retain staff.

A boom in compensations and benefits roles is also being fuelled by the introduction of pay gap regulations says Rawlins at Hudson. “We have also seen around a 26 per cent increase in roles in equality and diversity, and analytical roles, to ensure businesses are offering diverse, competitive, and varied reward packages,” she says. “We’re expecting this figure to increase in 2016.”

At Ashley Kate, MacNamara says that concern for “ internal structure” is prompting a lot of organisations to recruit talent managers and learning and development specialists , as they focus on “people development and retention—creating value beyond delivery”, and succession planning.

Sought-after Skills

Data skills will be in demand in 2016.

Ely, at Hays Human Resources, points out that “Big Data” remains in the spotlight, with the result that organisations want to build HR teams “who can intelligently use, and interpret, information and data.”

Finding the strategies which are best suited to gaining specific insights for your firm and being more efficient in data capture activities will impress employers, says MacNamara. “Show how your firm can make more cost savings and make sure your business is equipped for the future”, she says.

It also remains imperative for HR professionals to understand their commercial environment.

“Our research into how employers rate the skills of their staff found that they are looking for HR professionals with commercial awareness and IT knowledge coupled with the soft skills of communication, leadership and team working,” says Ely.

Skills in change management and transformation are becoming more sought-after, says O’Connor from Michael Page Human Resources. “In a recent survey we carried out, nearly 40 per cent of HR leaders referred to this as a business priority for 2016 which is significantly above the global average,” he says.  “Talent management remains high on the agenda, and again, many HR directors surveyed cite this as at, or near, the top of their priority lists for 2016 and beyond”, he says.

All the recruiters we spoke to predicted that skills in organisational design and leadership development will feature on employers’ shopping lists, as well as employee relations, as HR professionals prove their mettle in identifying complex issues relating to conflict resolution and prepare senior managers for change.

Regional trends

The North of England, and Manchester in particular, is increasingly seen by financial organisations as a hub for shared services, says Kerry White, senior consultant, executive recruitment, at the Manchester office of MacMillan Davies.

She also points to a lot of HR activity in pharmaceutical businesses in the region as these industries establish different skills bases for new products. “Learning and development professionals and recruiters are in demand”, she says predicting,   “the next stage will be business partnering.” 

The South- East remains strong for professional services and media. “But in the South- West we are finding that engineering is quite a buoyant sector”, says MacNamara from Ashley Kate. “Finance is another, but more in the realms of insurance and lending than wealth management.”

The London region continues to present a springboard into an HR career with plenty of less-senior roles in manufacturing and retail, and looking further afield, MacNamara also predicts an increase in international and global remits because British firms are still being snapped up by global firms.

Show your worth

Sophisticated thinking will help HR job seekers make an impact in 2016. They need to be able to discuss their contribution to the business and cast off their image as keeper of the rule book.

At MacMillan Davies’ London office, senior consultant Brett Smitheram says that HR professionals must demonstrate their communication skills and ability to handle ambiguity. “They need to start dancing around in the grey,” he says.

MacNamara advises that HR professionals act as “ambassadors for their firm and able to work with the likes of marketing in promoting their employer branding when attracting new talent.”

O’ Connor predicts that 2016 will be time to display mental agility. “It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a human resources professional”  he says, “ but this means that HR teams are more visible and accountable than ever, and as a result there is an expectation that people will really know their stuff and be able to plan, think and act quickly when required to.”