HR Specialists versus HR Generalist

By November 8, 2017

Reduce labour costs without losing good staff

Thanks to the mining boom, labour costs have nearly driven Australian businesses who want to compete internationally out of the running, according to Business Insider Australia editor Chris Pash.

That trend is likely to continue, a rebound in the world economy makes the labour market more competitive, as 2017 statistics seem to indicate.  Managers need to toe a fine line and maintain a balancing act of keeping good employees without increasing labour costs.

US manufacturing advisor Steven Brand recommends that organisations optimise their workforce through balancing their resourcing and cost controls to grow their bottom line. Although Brand admits that layoffs may be an easier, faster way to lower labour costs, it is certainly not the best strategy. As Brand put it, “The cost of finding and training new employees is extremely high—so it makes more financial sense to hold on to your employees and keep them happy.”

What are businesses looking for?

The HR Salary and Job Guide, an annual review by Human Capital Magazine, reports that businesses are now primarily looking for someone who can add more value to the bottom line.

Businesses are seeking candidates with a broad skill set to step into senior and HR advisor roles.

In short, HR Generalists who can cover a range of functions at a senior level such as recruitment, L&D, employee relations are in high demand across industries.

This is especially the case for temporary and contract roles in organisations with lengthy selection processes (such as the public sector) where they seek to temporarily fill a position to address immediate needs.

Interestingly, the report also highlights a growing trend regarding a candidate’s behaviour capabilities rather than just their technical experience and skills.

Employers are looking for professionals who display competencies such as leadership development, commerciality, influencing and change leadership.

Someone who can effectively provide high level advice and lead line managers and teams towards good decision making that supports overarching business goals.

So, does this spell the end for HR Specialists?

Rest assured it’s not all bad news for HR Specialists. In fact, far from it.

There is still a need for HR Specialists across the board, with Human Capital Magazine reporting a strong demand particularly within recruitment, learning and development, employee relations and changes management.

This is despite redundancies within the mining and manufacturing sectors in Western Australia resulting in a drop within specialist roles within the state.

Rather much of the demand for specialists seems to be coming from the public sector with constant change and reinvigoration on the table.  Yet, specialists certainly aren’t limited to just government as demonstrated by our table below:

HR Specialist Role Demanded by:
Workforce Planning Specialist
  • state and federal government departments to help manage continual change demanded by departmental restructures and mergers
  • new infrastructure projects across states
  • organisations in NSW and Victoria looking to grow internal team
Instructional Designers
  • companies looking to focus upon their online learning and L&D strategies to help expand skill sets and retain staff
Industrial Relations and Employee Relations
  • the public sector necessitated by continually evolving legislation and corporate compliance
Compensation and Benefits
  • the public sector again this time looking to deliver offerings more in line with the private sector
Change Management
  • senior candidates are being particularly sought out by large, complex organisations seeking change
Ethics and Compliance
  • by international businesses seeking to minimise risk
Organisational Development
  • growing organisations to guide the development of a strong workplace culture

But where are the roles?

So, it’s good news for both HR generalists and HR specialists but where are the roles?

Senior HR roles are reportedly slowly picking up but not at a fast pace.  Most senior HR positions seem driven by the need to fill maternity leave positions or roles becoming available when organisations relocate to Australia.

There is also a trend of employers directly undertaking the hiring of senior roles such as Director or Head of HR, which can tend to lead to a smaller candidate pool.

For those seeking mid to senior roles, these positions are predominantly temporary and contract with competition and quality of applicants’ high.

There is also good news for those starting out in HR with coordinators and administrators still needed to support the team overall.

And what about remuneration?

Generally, HR salaries in Australia are in line with national salary growth with organisations approaching salary increases cautiously, tending to only occur with promotion or job change.

However, there is good news.

HR Specialists whose skills are in high demand – such as IR/ER and compensation and benefit professionals –are being offered very competitive salary packages.

With a short of supply of senior candidates in the eastern states, HR advisor and senior advisors are also seeing an increase in salary offers.

HR Professionals tend to benefit from bonuses, with Frazer Jones’ Research indicating that 70% of HR professionals work in organisations that offer bonuses based on business and individual performance.

So overall, the role of HR – whether you are a generalist or a specialist – is still in high demand across industries.  Now it’s all about keeping up with the demands of the future workplace.

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