Three quarters of UK executives will maintain or increase current staff levels over the next six months

09 July 2012
  • Biggest demand is for finance, compliance and audit professionals
  • 66% of senior executives are concerned about losing top performers

London, 9 July 2012 – Nearly one in four (24%) UK senior executives are planning to recruit new permanent, professional-level staff in the second half of 2012, with a further 49% maintaining current levels. While 23% plan to decrease levels, executives are upbeat, with almost three quarters (71%)  remaining confident in their company’s growth prospects compared with last year, according to the latest Robert Half Professional Hiring Index (the ‘Index’).  

The Index, which is the first bi-annual recruitment survey of its size and scope to focus exclusively on professional-level hiring in the UK, shows that the biggest drivers for increased hiring levels are ‘business growth’ and ‘rising workloads’.

Looking at different company types, private companies expect a net 5% increase in staff levels over the second half of 2012, with 25% planning to add permanent headcount and 20% anticipating declines.  Publicly listed companies plan a similar level of expansion, with 28% planning increases and 21% forecasting decreases: a net 7% hiring increase.  

Phil Sheridan, Managing Director, Robert Half UK said: “Private and publicly listed companies continue to predict net growth in new hires for the next six months, and despite capital market uncertainty, UK confidence levels remain little changed since the beginning of the year. Executives are citing only a 5% decrease in their confidence since the beginning of 2012 in both their company and country’s economic performance. Interestingly, confidence in the UK’s growth prospects amongst public sector executives has countered the trend, with a 10 point increase over the past six months.

“It is clear that the financial crisis is far from over, however, it appears that companies have adjusted their operations to leverage the good from the bad. Confidence-levels remain steady and bright spots continue to prevail in certain pockets of the market.”

Profession-specific trends:

Accounting and finance hiring

Hiring within accounting and finance will remain relatively buoyant in the second half of 2012, with three in 10 (30%) CFOs expecting hiring increases and 17% forecasting declines, a net 13% increase. Business growth or expansion is the leading reason for CFOs planning to add headcount to their teams and nearly eight in 10 (78%) find it challenging to find skilled financial professionals today.

According to the Index, hiring for finance and banking operations professionals within the financial services sector remains steady, with nearly four in 10 (36%) CFOs/ COOs planning to increase their headcount and only 11% reducing staff levels: a net 25% increase. 

 
The key driver for hiring for finance professionals remains rising workloads, with 50% of the response, although for banking operations professionals, business growth or expansion accounts for 56% of the new hires, followed by new regulatory requirements with 28% of responses. When asked which areas within their organisation will see the most hiring in the second half of the year, 40% said operations, followed closely by finance (39%), risk (29%), compliance (28%) and internal audit (19%) to round out the top five.

Executives are increasingly worried about  finding and retaining talented staff with two-thirds (66%) citing concerns over losing top performers to other job opportunities in 2012. Nearly eight-in-10 (78%) finance leaders report that it is at least somewhat challenging to find skilled finance professionals, with large and publicly listed organisations finding it the most difficult with 88% and 85% respectively.

Sheridan continues: “Despite the uncertainty in the UK economy, more than three quarters of finance leaders report that they still face difficulties when recruiting skilled finance professionals.  No matter how competitive job markets become in sectors such as financial services, or in functions such as finance and accounting, there is always a demand for the best performers.  Employers need to ensure that they adopt effective strategies to retain their best people, whether that involves the offer of flexible working or offering them more strategic responsibilities.”

Technology hiring

There will be moderate gains in technology hires in the second half of 2012 as executives move forward with new projects.  Three in 10 (29%) HR Directors plan to increase the number of permanent IT personnel in the next six months and 22% expect declines: a 7% net increase.

Hiring is stronger in London and Southern England with a net 18% and 12% of companies, respectively, planning to add staff.  The top reason for increasing technology headcount is IT systems upgrades, with more than one-third (35%) of executives choosing this option, ahead of business growth or expansion at 30%

Human resources and marketing hiring

In other functional areas, such as HR and marketing, the hiring forecast is less optimistic than in finance and financial services.  Seventeen per cent of HR directors expect to increase the headcount of their HR teams in the first half of 2012.  However, 27% plan to decrease hiring plans, leading to a 10% net decline.  A slightly higher 20% of human resources directors indicate that they have plans to increase permanent headcount in marketing departments, with 25% expecting declines: a net hiring decrease of 5%.  

Administration and office support hiring

Nearly one-in-five (19%) HR directors expect to see increased headcount within their organisations’ administrative teams, with 34% forecasting declines: a net UK decrease of 15%.  Macroeconomic considerations are the major contributing factor to this decreasing headcount, cited by 36% of HR directors, followed by cost management strategy at 22%.

Hiring plans, by region

Regionally, senior executives in London expect the strongest hiring forecast in the country, with three in 10 (30%) planning to increase their permanent personnel in the second half of the year and 21% forecasting declines. The net London increase of 9% is 8 points higher than the national average.