While there is a trend towards leaner HR teams as a result of the downturn, organisations have not implemented mass HR redundancies, according to Toni Maselli, national practice leader, LINK Recruitment.
HR has been helped by the fact that it is recognised by businesses as essential to ensuring productivity and keeping employees engaged, she said.
Speaking on the results of a national HR recruitment survey, Maselli said recruitment has taken a backseat in the current economic climate, and demand for HR generalists has also decreased.
“We have seen salaries dropping off – both for staff currently employed and those changing jobs. As a guide, $130,000 is the new $150,000. The good news is that the profession has been quick to pick up on this trend and understand the need to be flexible around salary in the current climate,” she said.
In the last 10 years, however, the HR profession has developed particular specialisations, and this is where there are varying levels of demand.
The rapid contraction of workforces across the country, coupled with recent changes to workplace legislation, is driving demand for specialists in change management, industrial and employee relations, mediation, occupational health and safety, organisational development and career transition services.
“These specialisations are seen as key for organisations looking to manage, develop and retain the staff they have,” Maselli said.
In an effort to keep teams lean, she said, businesses are appointing contractors and temporary staff to manage projects where specialist skills are required, especially in dealing with redundancies.
“We expect steady demand for remuneration and benefits specialists to continue, as businesses attempt to decrease salary costs and reward staff in other ways.”
While demand for learning and development experts has waned, she said that there are still opportunities available. “Ensuring the productivity of income-generating positions, such as frontline salespeople, will be a key focus for many organisations in the next 12 months,” she said.
“Strategic HR issues such as leadership, workforce and succession planning will also be top of mind for CEOs navigating uncertain economic conditions. HR professionals should be demonstrating their value by highlighting their expertise in these areas.”
HR professionals need to stay aligned with business goals to keep themselves employable and relevant, she added.
“There are really no secrets here … This means frequently reviewing business goals and setting new goals for yourself to ensure your projects are adding value to the areas of focus for your organisation,” she said.
“Forward planning for when the economy recovers is essential – organisations will need to be ready to go to market to recruit new staff. Work out what the key roles and people are in this economy, and how this will change when economic growth picks up.”
She said generalists looking to become more employable need to play up their expertise and experience in specialist areas that are in demand. Specialists can diversify their experience by working on projects beyond their area of expertise, said Maselli, and the best place to do this is within their current organisation.
“Every HR professional should be keeping up to date with the significant changes occurring in workplace legislation and employment law. The best way to do this is through professional bodies and dedicated information websites,” she said.
“Overall, the HR function is in a better position this time around to weather a downturn. Remember to demonstrate your value to the organisation’s leadership, and emphasise your importance in maintaining productivity and morale by developing key staff and keeping them engaged.”