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In 2023, the global economy surpassed expectations; however, challenges persisted for numero...
In 2023, the global economy surpassed expectations; however, challenges persisted for numerous markets. Throughout the year's second half, our global portfolio witnessed a wide array of job openings, emphasising a noticeable shift towards specialised roles. Specifically, there was a demand for expertise in Compensation and Benefits, Talent Management, Employee Relations, and HR Operations/HR Shared Services. The overarching focus for many organisations throughout the year revolved around retention, upskilling, and operational efficiency.
It’s always valuable to reflect on the year gone by and our expectations for 2024. To provide you with a comprehensive overview of the Commerce market in H2, we have compiled insights from our global team of specialist consultants. Below we delve into the trends, challenges, and opportunities shaping the industry alongside our market predictions for 2024.
UK & Europe
The HR job market across Commerce has continued against a backdrop of uncertainty and caution, echoing the trends observed in the preceding quarter. This year we saw a more measured increase in vacancies, reflecting a cautious approach to hiring amid ongoing scrutiny of headcounts and cost reduction strategies.
Across the year the notable trend was the slowdown in senior-level opportunities, particularly affecting HR Directors. Conversely, the Tech landscape (both legacy and hyper-growth sectors) exhibited sustained movement, focusing on HR Transformation, Talent Development and Organisation Effectiveness .
In H2, we noted the demand for future talent across Retail, with companies opting to develop talent, as part of a long term aim to tackle retention. With an emphasis across the Commerce sector on Compensation and Benefits roles across all levels, these positions not only addressed traditional responsibilities related to year-end cycles but emerged as pivotal tools for driving growth and enhancing the overall value proposition of businesses. Against the backdrop of issues like the cost-of-living crisis, organisations actively sought creative solutions to remain competitive in the market, positioning Comp and Bens experts at the forefront of this strategic movement.
Looking ahead to 2024, we anticipate that the momentum in Comp and Bens roles will persist, and the need for HR transformation experts will remain prominent, contributing to the evolving HR landscape. However, we believe the movement of generalist HR leaders will not be seen until Q2 2024.
This quarter has seen me spending more time in my ‘home’ of Scotland. It has been incredible connecting, and reconnecting with my network. Organisations have merged and refocused, particularly in Financial Services. The market remains dynamic and vibrant with a tendency toward fixed-term contracts, combining both HR business partnering skills alongside transformation and change management elements giving the roles a mix of relationship and project skills.
The market in Scotland tends to focus on UK-based roles, with regional coverage. This adds a layer of complexity in terms of ensuring visibility, understanding local practices, legislations, and culture. International exposure in start-up and scale-up organisations are growing by acquisition, it’s interesting to talk to my network about how they navigate this in a fast-paced environment, often in a standalone role.
Across Europe, there remains some nervousness in the market with recruitment processes taking time while employers think through their hiring decisions. H2 for many has been around refocusing and realigning the workforce with the new business strategy. I think 2024 will see an upturn in the market with the HR Business Partnering area picking up, but with a focus on development and preparing workforces with the skills and knowledge to support the business strategy going forward.
In October the US revealed an increase of 150,000 new roles, albeit lower than anticipated, the unemployment rate also rose to 3.9%, marking its highest point since January 2022.
With a cautious stance toward external hiring , H2 saw a lack of flow in HR vacancies across all levels. Although we have seen a greater demand for mid-level HR roles, with total rewards and compensation and benefits being the most consistent need from a specialist perspective. Like the UK, the senior HR market remains relatively flat, with the most in demand skill sets focused on transformation and M&A integrations.
During Q3, many of our clients focussed on reshaping HR functions, where organisations prioritized employee reskilling over external recruitment. We’ve seen the elevation of the Talent function, which includes Talent Acquisition in some instances. This shift aims to comprehensively manage the employee life cycle—from attraction and recruitment to onboarding and performance management. This strategic approach facilitates a genuine assessment of competency and skill gaps, addressing them through upskilling, re-skilling, re-deployment, restructuring, or, in certain cases, headcount reduction. Should internal gaps persist, organizations are then more inclined to consider external searches.
Looking ahead to 2024, while we anticipate an increase in hiring, it is unlikely to resemble the post-COVID hiring boom. The focus will persist on scrutinizing workforce planning and innovating employee experiences, incorporating new systems, technology, and preparing the workforce for future hiring needs.
In the second half of 2023, we witnessed a gradual uptake in the Brazilian HR job market, attributed to the economic stabilisation and market confidence in the new government’s policies.
Sectors such as technology, professional services, and consumer goods experienced a notable recovery.
Similarly to the first half of the year, the Agricultural sector sustained its growth, driving the entire supply chain and stakeholders in the Latin American landscape. Based on market analysis and conversations with clients and candidates, our forecast suggests that this sector will continue to thrive in 2024. We believe it will be a year marked by increased economic security and visibility for the Brazilian economy.
Despite the speculation around a global recession, the market shows promising growth prospects and a resurgence of activity, that will lead to a significant surge in the demand for HR professionals. We predict that in demand roles will include HR Business Partners, Tech Recruiters, and positions in Organisational Development. These roles will be pivotal in supporting companies with their evolving needs during this period of economic resurgence.
In the second half of the year, the economic landscape of India presented a dynamic narrative. While Q3 faced challenges , Q4 of 2023 witnessed a revival with heightened consumer spending, marking a return to pre-pandemic celebratory levels during the recent festivals. This has had a positive impact across Commerce , with a 20% increase in the hiring of gig workers in the Retail and E-commerce industry, setting the pace for a robust holiday season.
India is witnessing a continued upsurge in the demand for green jobs in areas such as renewables and electric vehicles. However, we are seeing a significant challenge in identifying and recruiting individuals with the skill set to meet these evolving needs, with a talent shortage in the EV (electric vehicle) space. The boost in the this sector has ignited a talent war in the market, leading to the recruitment of 40% of professionals from traditional automotive sectors. Furthermore, the sector has actively targeted professionals across FMCG, industrial design, and the consumer electronics manufacturing sector.
However, despite the active job market, the economy experienced a rise in the unemployment rate, reaching a two-year high of 10.05% in October 2023. This unexpected increase could be attributed to various factors such as sectoral shifts, skill gaps, layoffs or cost cutting measures.
Across the HR landscape, there is a burgeoning demand for Mid-Senior HR professionals across Learning & Development, Talent Acquisition, HR Analytics and HR Business Partners. In industries including automotive, construction, mining, manufacturing, healthcare and hospitality.
Looking ahead to 2024, there is optimism fuelled by increased government investment in economic activities. The Manufacturing sector is set to emerge as a key driver for India’s GDP, supported by the nation’s commitment to low labour costs, advanced construction practices, favourable investment policies, and simplified taxation. These strategic measures position India favourably for global businesses seeking stability and growth opportunities.
South East Asia, Singapore
There has been a noticeable sense of positivity in the Singapore HR job market in the latter half of H2 2023, with a growing number of HR professionals securing new positions after being affected by organisational changes and layoffs earlier in the year. This trend suggests a positive shift in hiring patterns and employer confidence, signalling an optimistic outlook for HR professionals.
The most recent forecast from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) suggests that Singapore's economy is anticipated to expand by 1 to 3 per cent in 2024. Despite ongoing concerns about the global economy, particularly concerning potential conflicts and supply disruptions, there is no indication of a recession in global and ASEAN-centric data for the upcoming year. We anticipate that the overall trend in the upward hiring trend is set to become more active once again despite lingering caution.
As businesses and industries continue to navigate economic uncertainties and changing business needs, many are beginning to open new positions and rehire employees. While there is optimism about the resurgence of hiring activities, organisations are treading carefully and approaching growth initiatives with a measured approach. Nevertheless, the gradual increase in opportunities presents a positive sign and indicates a growing confidence in the market's recovery.
The HR landscape is evolving rapidly, with a growing emphasis on talent management, employee experience, as well as performance and reward. According to Workforce Singapore, emerging roles in HR include; HR Data Analysts, Learning Designers, Employee Onboarding Specialists, and People Strategists. The common thread among these changes is the increasing reliance on data analytics and AI. To thrive in this evolving environment, HR professionals must prioritise upskilling in data analysis and interpretation to glean insights and craft data-driven narratives. It is essential for HR leaders to possess strong business acumen in areas such as organisational behaviour, change management, and communication to navigate the strategic landscape of an organisation effectively. The ability to interpret and align HR initiatives with business objectives is essential in driving sustainable growth and success.
HR business partners (HRBPs) will remain pivotal in shaping the retention and human capital strategy by fostering meaningful collaboration between HR and other key business functions. Amid the uncertain global economy, we have observed that the Logistics, Healthcare, Life Sciences, and Tourism industries remain strong in their recruitment efforts and show no signs of slowing down in continuing to hire. We anticipated substantial job growth in Transport as the demand for efficient transportation rises, and advancements in medical technology drive the need for skilled professionals in Healthcare and Life Sciences. These industries display resilience amid economic challenges and are expected to provide numerous job opportunities across different fields.
North Asia, Hong Kong
Within the dynamic and energised business landscape in Hong Kong, the HR function continues to play a pivotal role in driving organisational success. Organisation and Talent Development remain centre stage in H2 2023, as organisations recognise the need to prioritise a business-integrated HR function focussed on developing, advancing, and retaining cross-generational employees in a highly competitive job market.
We noted HR AI/Technology is playing a growing role in HR in the second half of 2023, leading to the significant increase of demand in Tech, Analytics or Process Digitalisation/Optimisation experts. With the emerging need across Commerce on streamlining and automating HR processes or driving strategic analytics for workforce planning and organisational transformation.
Fuelled by rapid business growth from H1 as well as regional optimism in economic development in 2024, we have noted that the Tourism and Hospitality, Retail and Consumer Goods as well as Sourcing and Supply Chain sectors have been actively hiring for HR professionals in H2 to remain competitive in this dynamic landscape.
We strongly believe the Commerce HR market in Hong Kong will be characterised by fierce competition for top talent and poised for further evolution in 2024.
To stand out in the competitive talent market, organisations will prioritise employer branding highlighting their unique inclusive company culture, diversified growth opportunities, and focus on employee well-being and engagement.