Q As a mid-level HR professional, I am concerned
about the impact new economic conditions might
have on my career. In the last few years I have been
focusing on developing a specialisation in learning
and development. Should I continue down this path,
or reposition myself as an all-rounder? Is there any
way I can minimise the risk of retrenchment down
A The years leading up to 2008 saw high demand
for HR professionals, as organisations recognised
the HR department as a vital and strategic part of top-
level decision making and of their organisation’s
success. As recognition of the value of HR
professionals grew, so did HR departments.
Yet HR professionals should not feel anxious that
we are experiencing a repeat of the last recession,
when HR was viewed by many as a cost centre. Today,
the HR profession is better positioned internally as a
core function that adds value to the bottom line.
The last few years have seen distinct HR functions
and specialisations develop, especially in the learning
and development, remuneration and benefits, and
recruitment functions. Mid-to -large organisations have
evolved to teams of HR managers, specialists and
consultants reporting to an HR director. I believe this
approach is here to stay.
Moving forward, organisations will want to retain
their talented staff and have efficient and productive HR
teams, regardless of where the Australian economy is
heading. Top-level management will be asking HR
departments for advice about how to retain staff, manage
learning and development and nurture positive
While HR departments may not grow as
aggressively as they have in the past few years, vacant
positions will still be filled.
We are seeing organisations keep consistent
staffing levels in HR departments, and have seen
significant growth in the number of contract roles
available. However, staffing levels are being retained
in mid-to-top-tier organisations by filling vacancies
with contractors rather than permanent employees.
Demand for L&D has not slowed at all and may
even grow as organisations recognise the need to up-
skill their staff, especially those that will be asked to
take on more responsibilities. In the face of
recruitment freezes, up-skilling will be used to bring
new capabilities into an organisation without hiring
new employees. Ensuring the productivity of income-
generating positions such as frontline sales people will
also be a focus of L&D professionals.
The most secure industries for HR professionals are
those with good medium-to-long term economic
outlooks, including health, mining, resources, the public
sector and infrastructure. However if you feel well
supported and thatyour current employer offers a good
career path, sit tight and watch how the market pans out
during the next 12 months.
Remember, as with any time of uncertainty, the
current employment market has many exciting
opportunities for those willing to be flexible and take a
chance. Good luck!