Recruitment Activity Update


by Amanda McCulloch

6th June 2019

Increased recruitment reflects renaissance activity but skills identification and engagement are the routes to longer term success.

The upturn in hiring activity forecast during 2018 is being realised, fuelling a sense of revival and re-invigoration. Compared to this time last year Thorpe Molloy Recruitment has experienced a 30% increase in job flow across all our recruitment specialisms.

Investment decisions from Operator and Tier 1 service companies are fuelling capital and operating expenditure, driving demand for services across the supply chain. The rise in our business activity reflects this universal shift but is also a result of the growing concern around skills shortages, with employers supplementing their own recruitment efforts with specialist services in order to attract and recruit talent.

Without doubt the outlook is more optimistic but austerity habits take time to change, particularly where organisations are cautious about the impact of cost inflation and economic uncertainty. While there has been a shift to more permanent hiring, the flexibility of temporary workers continues to be an attractive choice across all our teams but worth noting is the particularly sharp rise in PAYE temps working through our Supply Chain & Contracts specialism. By choosing this type of resourcing employers are deploying a "try before you buy" approach, ensuring that they are committing to a really good fit for their team before extending a permanent offer of employment. To some extent, the rise in the number of PAYE temps reflects candidate preference for this status over limited company contractor status, in light of private sector IR35 changes taking effect next year.

Employers need to readjust their thinking about reactive hiring because there are fewer job seekers now immediately available, making temporary roles much harder to fill.

As overall business headcount rises the number of people in the HR department supporting the business rises too. We are experiencing increased demand for internal recruiters, HR administrators, training administrators and training coordinators. While statutory and compliance related training is ongoing, there is currently very limited opportunity for strategic learning and development professionals. I hope this will change based on research published by OPITO and RGU's Oil & Gas Institute, (UKCS Workforce Dynamics: The Skills Landscape 2019 – 2025) which cited the importance of identifying future skills needs and considering how we can up skill and retrain the current talent in our businesses to fill skills gaps and alleviate skills shortages.

In certain disciplines, such as HR, there are exceptionally experienced senior personnel willing to accept long term temporary assignments for which they are over-qualified in order to be back in work, deploying their skills. I'd encourage employers not to overthink the flight risk of experienced personnel. Focus instead on the strategic value they will bring while they are with you.



In Office Personnel the priorities have been to hire at the more junior to mid-level with a generalist skill set supporting multiple people or deployed across several departments.

Project investment is providing for healthy hiring demand for procurement, purchasing, internal sales and contracts roles in our Supply Chain & Contracts specialism. I'm happy to report that the badly hit materials logistics job market is gradually improving and our QHSE specialism is anticipating a very busy second half to the year as a result of growing demand for QA and QC professionals.

Since the turn of the year our Communications & Marketing specialism has experienced an upsurge in demand for fundraising personnel from the third sector, reflecting the need for organisations operating in this space to be more strategic and targeted in the increasingly competitive environment.

Our Trades, Engineering and IT recruiters are managing activity that implies tightening skills availability. Hiring on a permanent basis is relatively more commonplace, there are few immediately available candidates and salary expectations are on the rise. Hiring companies are more readily considering team fit and attitude during the selection process in an effort to alleviate recruitment challenges for discipline engineers, inspectors and CNC machinists. In this specialism we are experiencing a rise in limited company contractors for engineering and IT assignments and many more opportunities for graduate employment.

Our Accountancy & Finance team reports similar patterns of activity. There is an increase in permanent hiring, graduate opportunities are on the rise and candidates are interested to know what their skills are worth and what the improved job market means for their career development. Professionals who are particularly sought after at this time are within payroll, accounts payable, cost and tax as well as newly qualified and post qualified (2 – 5 years) accountants.

Skill sets in accountancy and finance are evolving, but professionals with financial management, planning and people management skills in conjunction with robust technical training remain highly marketable. It is proving hard for Chief Financial Officers to find this combination and that is stalling the rate of recruitment at more senior levels.

Driven by natural curiosity for the improved market, the level of candidate enquiries remains high. This is creating an opportunity for us to engage with active and passive candidates, as well as professionals who were previously reticent, preferring to use their discrete personal networks, such as industry and practice lawyers. The good news for these professionals is that their interest in the job market coincides with a rise in demand for legal advisors, litigation and corporate solicitors.

There is always concern in a tight skills environment that inflated salaries will price certain employers out of the hiring market. It's for this reason that more local businesses are working on their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) – communicating what they offer above financial reward, the tangible and intangible benefits that meet the needs of their target employee audience. This is an important tactic between hiring companies today, but I believe the energy industry needs to take a more holistic approach to its EVP if the skills crisis of tomorrow is to be averted.

This is illustrated in the excellent research report The Skills Landscape 2019 – 2025 which reports that in as little as six years, the oil and gas industry needs to attract 25,000 new people and 4,500 of those will be in completely new roles that don't currently exist in areas such as data science, automation and new materials. The shift in technology deployment is also illustrated in the recent Oil and Gas Survey from Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, reporting almost 47% of respondents have either started to use AI, or will do so, in the next five years.

Identifying the future skills your business needs is daunting because we work in an ever-changing, volatile environment. But it is essential. As we enter a revitalised business environment and set our sights on future success I'm struck by the need to focus not just on hard skills, but soft skills too. Leadership is a defining attribute that is required throughout organisations, not just in the C-suite.

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