QHSE Update : A Two-Sided Tale
by Lauren Murray
The great news for QHSE professionals is that demand for their skills is on the up, up, up. Although we are only at the interim point of the year, our job volume for permanent roles is 70% of the number worked on for the whole of 2018 and temporary assignments for 2019 are an incredible 118% of the total number of vacancies we managed during all of 2018.
Recently, I was reminded of the old saying "There are 2 sides to every story…. and they are both right." It's absolutely pertinent to QHSE recruitment at this time.
From the employer's perspective downturn habits die hard and many minds are stuck in 2015 when it comes to rates of pay with even large service companies surprised to learn that the reason they cannot successfully recruit for QHSE Advisor roles is because their remuneration may be array by as much as £10 - £15,000 per annum.
That's enabling me to add value immediately, sharing up-to-date, relevant information on market activity and candidate expectations. These honest discussions have led to salary benchmarking activity and I'm confident that rates of pay across the specialism will begin to rise as employers re-calibrate remuneration in an effort to secure talent.
Hiring client and job seeker perspectives differ on much more than rates of pay though. There's also divergent thinking on the nature of work. The reason why the temp market is performing so strongly is that uncertainty prevails, headcount budget remains constrained so temporary assignments of between 3 – 6 months or fixed term contracts are an attractive option for employers.
However, from the job seekers' perspective, temp contracts are less attractive at this time. Simply, they have more choice and are willing to wait for a permanent position in the more buoyant market. But there's more to it than that – there's professional integrity too. Role content includes clearing significant back logs, ISO accreditation, reviewing and updating management systems and compliance management. On a temporary contract this interesting work will be completed, but candidates increasingly cite frustration that their work will become out-of-date or even obsolete if they are not retained for the longer term.
I'm also experiencing a resurgence in specialist roles. During the downturn a generalist profile was preferred but niche roles in quality engineering are emerging, offering challenge and variety. Change management is also providing really interesting work for professionals who are proficient at identifying efficiencies, scrutinising problems from a different perspective and effecting change by deploying process and exceptional soft skills.
An upbeat QHSE job market is long overdue. It's particularly motivating for professionals who feel they have been "stuck", even stagnating, for a few years.
The market being weighted towards temporary recruitment affords a wide range of opportunity for job seekers who are willing to accept this type of work. And don't forget. Temporary work can lead to permanent work. We colloquially call it "try before you buy" and it is another reason why employers are using this method of employment – it enables time for team fit to be determined and that's increasingly important in performance driven teams.
My message is simple. Since taking on responsibility for our QHSE recruitment I've been struck by the character and energy of the candidates I meet and willingness to understand and adapt from my clients.
By better understanding each other's side of the story I know employers can offer employment opportunities that really appeal to the right candidates. Let's keep on talking.