Q2 2023 Market Update: HR Job Market in the UK

6 mins

Despite the economic backdrop it has been a busy six months for our UK and European business...

Despite the economic backdrop it has been a busy six months for our UK and European business as companies look to secure strong HR talent. 


Key themes in the first half of the year include:

  • Upskilling leaders
  • HR transformation linked to culture and technology 
  • Redefining hybrid working 
  • Attraction and retention 
  • Reward 
  • DEI

Analysing the HR hires made this year there has been a genuine range from the Associate level to experienced hires, however the core flow has been across middle management. In Q1 we did not see the usual movement post bonus announcements, particularly at the Director level. Based on conversations with several HR leaders the HR agenda has been so busy this year as Excos are increasingly leaning on their support and ability to drive culture, policies, wellbeing, engagement, retention … the list goes on! Key hires made this year have been based on upskilling or reskilling and the desire to hire individuals who are agile, commercial and well connected to the business. That ability to work as a true partner seems more prominent than ever before.  

We continue to maintain and strengthen our relationships with a number of Financial Services and Commerce clients, plus having expanded our geographical scope we have successfully supported clients with their HR hires in Spain, Paris and the Middle East. 

The connection to our HR community holds great value to us, demonstrated through the HR related events held this year; from Emerging Leader lunches, roundtables, networking evenings and HRD cohorts. Thank you to Sasha Scott, Kate Mansfield, Charlie Girling and Ellie Rich Poole for partnering with us so far this year.  

We look forward to a busy and varied H2! 

- Kirstin Hunt, Managing Director, UK & Europe.  

You can get in touch with Kirstin on LinkedIn or at kh@elliottscotthr.com

Financial and Professional Services update from Hannah Russell 

Within Financial Services, we have seen a divergent picture emerge from a hybrid perspective – in particular a tendency for buy-side firms, especially small to medium sized, to be returning to the office, whilst insurance and banking remain two or three days a week hybrid. This is creating an interesting picture from a candidate attraction perspective, and we are starting to see candidates on the buy-side be interested in roles in other areas of financial services. For those organisations who are still two or three days hybrid we’ve seen more embedded ways of working emerge with team ‘anchor’ days becoming more common, where the whole team will go into the office on particular days in order to collaborate. In Professional Services, hybrid remains more common regardless of firm size.

Numbers of vacancies remain strong and interestingly several of our clients are hiring new roles - we continue to see investment in the Talent Development space, as clients take stock of their employee capability following high turnover in the last couple of years at all levels. Demand for Benefits, Rewards Learning and HRIS professionals also remains strong.  

However, we are seeing some caution amongst candidates and have seen more limited post-bonus movement this year than in the past. In contrast to 2022, Talent Acquisition vacancies have become much less common with multiple candidates looking in this area of the market, although we continue to see a steady demand in the Early Careers space.

The roles we have worked on this year have been across asset management, hedge funds, private equity, financial payments, banks and smaller boutique FS firms and from most of our discussions candidates are attracted to positions where there is a strong HR leader, good visibility to the business and where HR is regarded in high esteem.

You can get in touch with Hannah on LinkedIn or at hr@elliottscotthr.com 

Commerce update from Tom Dover


In 2023, the market has been characterised by caution, with prevailing uncertainty across various industries. A lot of this is driven by the excessive hiring in 2021 and therefore business have had to look at headcount and cost reductions in the first half of this year. In the UK, despite restructures across big tech firms and start-up businesses, we did see movement in the legacy tech spaces, with more established businesses, gearing for global transformation and still retaining the confidence to hire. There was also movement in hyper growth tech, automotive, legacy media, and online fashion sectors. For these organisations, amongst specialist roles, having a capable HR leader, with a strong penchant towards innovation, is a high priority.


Our clients have been seeking individuals with robust skills in HR change management, transformation, and organisational design and effectiveness, as businesses strive to adapt and remain agile in response to the constantly evolving market. Another area in high demand is HRIS, as the emphasis on data quality remains central to ongoing transformational efforts. Additionally, due to the challenges posed by rising living costs and attrition, there is a significant need for generalists and HR Business Partners specialising in benefits, learning and development (L&D), and upskilling. HR leaders with a strong penchant towards innovation, is a high priority. 


As we saw a decline in Talent Acquisition activity it was important to keep connected with a number of key recruiters so we hosted our first TA Connect event of the year, where Talent Acquisition professionals, from across all sectors, came to share their market insights. Ellie Rich Poole was also on hand to offer career advice. 


As we approach H2 slowly but surely the market is regaining confidence, we have a higher volume of HR roles and it’s so refreshing to meet clients face to face again to discuss hiring plans for the rest of the year. Sectors we predict to see growth include; HealthTec, EdTech, Oil & Gas and Farming. 


You can get in touch with Tom on LinkedIn or at td@elliottscotthr.com


An update on the European market from Suzanne Atkinson 


A lot of my conversations this year have been dominated by, hybrid working and transformation, across both HR and the business. The success of hybrid working falls into two parts, the first being the practical application of the approach; are employees working in line with what has been agreed? The second part is around whether the approach is delivering against the business objectives as well as providing employees with an environment in which they can thrive. I recently shared a short article by Mark Mortensen from INSEAD who has some insightful research into the topic. You can read more here.   


Activity this quarter has been focused on Spain with a very active market and a strong pipeline of experienced HR professionals and leaders. From my conversations I have seen a rising trend of international leaders moving into interim and contract roles. Some of this has been a conscious decision to get exposure to different industries, cultures and challenges as well as a shift in the market to look at contract roles to pick up key projects such as transformation and digitalisation. What it means is that they have a short window to build relationships and deliver against the objectives of their mission. It has made me reflect whether we need to look differently at CVs, and what loyalty means. I’m sensing there is a shift towards looking more at what someone can deliver at a point in time for an organisation, rather than the longevity of their tenure. As the needs of the business change, so will the skills and attributes that we seek.


In Paris the work we have seen has mainly been due to replacement hires for HR Managers and it is those leaders who can balance a strong technical background with the commercial capability to help run that entity efficiently. 


You can get in touch with Suzanne on LinkedIn or at sa@elliottscotthr.com