by James Sayer, Director, Robert Half
Midlands hiring is expected to see strong gains in the first half of the year as demand for skilled talent outweighs supply. Economic prospects have sharply risen across the region and the labour market has firmly entered a post-recessionary cycle. Candidates with sought-after skills are finding they have the upper hand when looking for new career opportunities as companies are vying for skilled talent.
Birmingham and Midlands hiring
According to the latest Professional Hiring Index from Robert Half UK, half (50%) of HR directors across the Midlands have plans to increase permanent recruitment in the first half of 2015. That figure is 22 points higher than it was the last survey six months ago and demonstrates a significant shift in Midlands hiring.
The index reveals that just 3% of HR directors believe their company will reduce their overall headcount over the period. Only 5% believe their company will freeze hiring in the next six months, by not filling vacant positions nor creating new ones.
Four in 10 (43%) Midlands HR directors will backfill vacant roles as they come available, compared to 63% in mid-2014. Logicially, many of these individuals are now indicating that they are creating new jobs instead of just backfilling departing employees.
With 50% of Midlands companies planning to add headcount, this is three points higher than the national average and is second only to London, where 58% plan to add permanent staff. We’ve seen strong growth since the beginning of the year, with more companies looking for skilled talent and a drive to recruit staff on a permanent, temporary and interim basis. The Midlands job market is thriving.
Skills shortages across the Midlands
The supply-demand shortfall shows no signs of letting up in the next 12 months. Eight in 10 (83%) HR directors across the Midlands say it is challenging to find skilled staff; one in three (33%) say it is very challenging.
A lack of niche technical experts is reportedly the greatest challenge facing HR directors, cited by 42% of respondents. General demand outweighing supply is the second highest response at 30%, followed by a lack of business and commercial skills (18%) amongst candidates.
Keeping employees retained and motivated poses an ongoing challenge for hiring managers as the labour market expands. Nearly eight in 10 (78%) HR directors are worried about losing top talent to competing opportunities over the next 12 months. This is leading to wage inflation, with companies increasing salaries in a bid to attract and retain the talent they need to growth their businesses.
Employment Trends in Birmingham and the Midlands
Figures from the Office for National Statistics echo the strong recruitment picture. General unemployment in the East Midlands is at 4.9% and the West Midlands is 6.1%, with that of professional occupations – such as finance, accounting, IT and specialist professions – likely far lower.
With strong growth prospects comes greater hiring challenges and Midlands employers are therefore doing what they can to pursue growth strategies while dealing with a shortage of skilled professionals.