HR recruitment hot spots

As HR takes on a more proactive role in the business, there is increasing demand for practitioners with strong influential and consultative skills. In this exclusive Q&A, Singapore’s top recruitment firms give an overview of the HR landscape, and highlight the skills HR professionals need to get ahead of the pack.

What HR specialisations are currently in demand? Which sectors have the hot jobs at the moment?

Finian Toh Joon Meng, Associate Director – HR Practice, Kerry Consulting: Overall demand for HR professionals is expected to remain stable across most sectors for the rest of 2016. There’s a trend of companies setting up their regional hubs in Singapore and moving HR services such as payroll administration, global mobility, and training support to lower-cost locations in Asia.

In today’s fast moving and rapidly changing HR world, candidates with strong change management, transformation, talent development and management skills are in high demand. These are largely newly-created roles as organisations focus on enhancing bench strength and having robust succession planning in place. Talent acquisition and management candidates are in demand as companies have realised that in-house talent acquisition is not just about recruiting, but about enhancing employer branding.

Additionally, HR generalists with specialist experience are in demand as they have demonstrated versatility and agility. Solid HR business partners with strong commercial skills will also continue to be in demand.

There is a growing trend towards temporary and contract roles within the HR function as employers endeavour to manage headcount constraints. Increasing numbers of candidates are becoming open to contracting opportunities whilst they look for permanent work, and some prefer the flexibility this offers. The HR function remains talent short and candidate-driven, yet candidates remain open to hearing about new opportunities that will enhance their careers and earnings.


What specific skillsets do companies look out for when hiring senior HR talent?

Lynne Roeder, Managing Director, Hays Singapore: We expect to see increased demand for senior HR professionals with strong influential and consultative skills across all sectors, due to the shift of HR as a support function to one that plays a more strategic role. Companies also seek candidates with regional, particularly Southeast Asia experience, given Singapore’s position as a popular regional hub for companies looking to expand.

Audrey Neo, Senior Vice President, HR Division, Charterhouse Partnership: As companies evolve to keep up with the changing economy, the HR model has transformed from a tactical function to a proactive one. Hence, companies have gone beyond hiring for current needs and are now asking for HR candidates with commercial and communication prowess. Are you able to go beyond day-to-day operations and be a staffing, rewards, learning or business partner? Essentially, an individual who is capable of putting themselves in front of the business and have a commercial, pragmatic discussion will be well sought after.

Bruno Marchand, Senior Manager – HR & Business Support divisions, Robert Walters Singapore: Those with the ability to handle change management and be hands-on are also highly sought after as a number of restructures and reorganisations have resulted in leaner HR operations.


What are some obstacles that HR professionals face when it comes to career advancement?

Roeder: HR specialists in areas such as compensation and benefits, learning and development, talent acquisition or HR information systems often find it more difficult to move into generalist roles. It is always wise to gain some generalist experience while specialising to ensure better chances of career advancement, due to the inherent need for comprehensive understanding of the business.

HR talent looking to venture into HR business partnering roles may also find it challenging due to the skills gap between operational and strategic HR, of which business partner roles fall under the latter. To overcome this, professionals should seek organisations with existing HR business partnering models to gain the necessary experience and strategic skills.

Toh: Common obstacles include a poor understanding of the business itself. In some instances, HR professionals are quite bogged down by the details in that they focus on. Their policies and programmes are sometimes uncommercial or irrelevant to the top or bottom lines of the business. Very often, they fail to ask business what it needs.

They can also lack strategic and critical thinking skills, and do not have a strong understanding of where the organisation is heading strategically and how HR can play a proactive role. They can be weak in financial literacy, such as the ability to comprehend a profit and loss statement, creation of budgets, and understanding of cost and profit centres.

Marchand: As Singapore is a mature market, there is a lack of new jobs creation at the moment, especially in senior level positions. If there are valued HR professionals who have advanced as much as they can, companies can consider moving them to other offices to gain more regional experience.


How important is it for HR professionals today to understand the wider business? Have you had candidates from non-HR backgrounds take on senior HR roles?

Roeder: It is increasingly important for HR professionals to take on a more strategic role in the wider business, as evidenced by the increasing demand for HR business partners who can work closely with stakeholders and line managers to implement corporate initiatives.

It is uncommon for professionals from a non-HR background to take on senior HR roles immediately, as a certain degree of knowledge and expertise in HR is required at the senior level. However, experienced HR professionals often find their cross-functional expertise useful in understanding the different priorities across functions, and pain points when implementing HR initiatives.

Toh: Besides having a robust business knowledge, they also need to have a global mindset which includes an awareness of cultural differences. Based on my experience, there are a handful of candidates from non-HR backgrounds taking on senior HR roles. Their business knowledge has helped them to focus on priorities that have an immediate impact to the top or bottom lines of the business.


How are HR salaries trending?

Toh: HR salaries are generally trending steady in the market. The annual increment is ranging from 10% to 15% on average.

Roeder: Companies are willing to pay more for the right talent. However, salary movements have been relatively flat in general.


How can HR upgrade its skillsets? What sort of training or education would be valuable?

Neo: There is a growing trend where candidates have obtained accreditation from the UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development as a form of professional certification.

However, this trend is still at an infancy stage and rarely do companies ask for any form of HR certification when considering a generalist profile. Multinational experiences and HR skillsets are still perceived as more relevant.

However, education or certification will be important for specialist roles, such as in the areas of compensation and benefits, and learning and development.

Roeder: As businesses move towards digitalised platforms, HR processes and strategies will need to change with the times. Keeping up to date with such trends is crucial and any training, conferences or education will be integral to expanding one’s HR skills.

HR needs to always align initiatives with the business strategy and should be able to show the return on investment by measuring their success along the way. As HR moves towards a more strategic role, management skills and business knowledge gained from further education such as a Masters of Business Administration, will be useful in advancing within the HR field.


Top tips for HR

To truly excel as a function, HR needs:

  • Robust knowledge of business drivers and challenges, and to apply their expertise in managing and resolving challenges in a proactive manner


  • Strong stakeholder management skills, such as the ability to say “no” while maintaining a cordial relationship


  • To build trust and credibility with the business


  • To be prepared for curve balls in a changing environment


Analysing the Workday advantage

Sandeep Aggarwal, Chief Financial Officer of Aon-Hewitt Asia-Pacific, shares his thoughts on the Workday finance and HR analytics platform. He says the cloud-based system is intuitive and easy-to-use, but still provides powerful insights across the functions.

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