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Global Outlook Q3 2021


Around the world, we are seeing unprecedented movement in Human Resources, with the traditional ‘slow’ summer period in Europe and the United States being anything but slow! This is a combination of replacement hiring, pent-up demand for roles that went on hold during the pandemic, and companies looking to drive change or raise the bar on performance.  Meanwhile, employees have had a chance to reflect during the last 18 months on what’s important to them and for many, factors such as location, purpose, and impact seem to be coming out on top.

Is This ‘The Great Resignation’?

We are being asked more and more about whether we are experiencing “the great resignation”.  Many of the people asking us this are HR and talent acquisition leaders from more established, ‘traditional’ companies.  Employees are more frequently quitting without jobs lined up.  They are burned out, fed up and generally using the reasoning “since COVID, I’ve taken stock and reprioritized what’s important to me”.

Return-To-Work Policy: An Important Consideration

As we interview HR talent, the first question we are often being asked is “what is the return-to-work policy?”. If there is not flexibility, many won’t even bother learning about the opportunity.  They simply pass and move on, knowing there will be others that will offer the flexibility they are looking for. 

We are finding that despite employee expectations, most companies out there believe that longer-term, it’s important to have people in the office—for both practical and cultural reasons. And there are many employees who strongly prefer to be in an office environment either part- or full-time. However, it is fair to say that companies requiring an in-office presence (especially where relocation is also required) are losing out on some of the best talent, due to a shrinking pool of viable candidates.  This is still a fluid situation with many organizations currently re-thinking past decisions on this topic especially given the employee-driven nature of the market currently.

HR Positions in Demand

Linked to above, talent acquisition searches are increasing—this function was significantly cut during the pandemic. This is now being reversed to cope with the demand. We are also seeing large-scale transformations resume in the TA space as leaders look to balance geographic considerations in line with remote working and bring in the right technologies.

Alongside talent acquisition, total rewards is our busiest and most competitive specialization. Drivers include a greater need for strategic direction, including: a tighter connection to the overall talent strategy and as a lever for performance, a need for a truly global and international understanding particularly around benefits, more challenges due to increasingly geographically dispersed workforces, a growing recognition that rewards practices should drive and reinforce culture, and an escalating need to ensure equity and transparency across an organization.

In the US, HR leaders are still working hard to diversify their employee base.  The demand for diverse talent has not rescinded and the war for diverse talent is real. Within the US, we are seeing companies opening offices in (or being open to talent being based in) locations where the largest population of diverse talent lives. Around the world, we are seeing a raised awareness of D&I issues. For example, employees have become more aware of issues such as bias and like to see their organizations adopting a more deliberate approach to inclusivity. This has led to an increase in D&I roles outside of headquarters, globally.

OD/OE/Change continues to be a key skillset sought in HR leaders. We are seeing more focus on the specialist OE roles to include analytics and employee experience. Established institutions continue to disrupt their digital strategies, and with this we have seen more opportunities being created for business partners with OD/OE skills to execute the workforce transformation agenda.

We are also seeing heavy activity in the pre-IPO/rapid growth world. Some promising enterprises are snaring top HR leaders who bring the sharp commercial acumen, agility, and speed to ramp-up the talent agenda and build workforce and leadership capability quickly. We have seen an interesting trend of folks under HRLT level moving out of large corporations, seeking something smaller where they can be part of the HRLT or even a number one level position.

An Efficient, First-Rate Hiring Process is Key!

Due to all of this, demand far exceeds supply and candidates are on the market for a relatively short amount of time. Top talent can choose from multiple offers, so a personalized and efficient hiring process is critical. One ‘gold standard’ example we have heard about recently is a VP level HR executive (not the CHRO), who was hired by a Fortune 100 company earlier this year. He met the entire C-suite including the CEO and was hired in a 3-week period.  He had competing offers and his ultimate choice of employer was driven, in part, by an impeccable hiring experience. Kudos!


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