Despite concerns about the global economy, demand for HR search overall remains robust, although slower than 2018 and somewhat variable by geography. We are seeing good demand for specialized HR talent at this early point in the year, particularly in technology, e-commerce, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Industrial/manufacturing, energy and hospitality are mixed and the traditional retail sector overall has slowed.

Financially astute, data-driven HR leaders with expertise in business transformation, M&A integration, culture change and strategic workforce planning are heavily sought after. We are also seeing demand for HR leaders who have a proven record of accomplishment in creating leaner, more agile organizations and HR teams.

On the specialist side of HR, the ‘hot’ areas currently are total rewards, talent acquisition and organization development/talent management. In all cases, demand revolves around specialists who are commercially astute and pragmatic, and who can drive performance on a team or enterprise level. Talent management, OD, transformation and change come up frequently as businesses continue their digitization journeys. Talent acquisition is hot on the agenda, especially regarding expertise in driving technology innovation, such as applicant tracking in CRMs, and exploring and introducing elements of AI for hiring.

We continue to see a pronounced move away from CoE-driven approaches to HR, especially if they are viewed as too ‘theoretical’.  We are also observing reviews of CoE structures as companies continue to look at cost efficiencies and organizational effectiveness. The past three to five years have generally seen an increase in the size of CoEs. More attention is now being placed on whether there is a duplication of responsibilities between the Talent CoE and HR Business Partners, whose roles are becoming increasingly focused on talent management and OD/OE. There are some concerns that centralized talent initiatives may not be fully fit-for-purpose when attributed across multiple business lines with different drivers and talent requirements.

We are also observing some organizations wanting to measure the effects of agile HR initiatives so that they can determine if they are really positive changes that lead to productivity and positive business results.  Examples are work/life balance initiatives that offer work-from-home environments, open offices and hot desk concepts.  Opinions are varied on these topics, and as a result, solid data is being increasingly sought after by companies investing heavily in these initiatives.

Mental health in the workplace is also becoming an increasing focus for HR leaders, particularly in organizations with high-pressure environments. In some arenas, the need to tackle mental health is becoming much more urgent and is being given greater prioritization in comparison to more lifestyle-driven wellness benefits. In particular, HR leaders in the technology industry are at the forefront of recognizing this need.