Future-proofing your human resources

After attending the August Chamber of Commerce lunch with guest speaker Peter Niven, I left feeling confident about the future of the financial services industry in Guernsey. It was certainly felt that we would be spared the majority of the turbulence currently being faced by businesses in the UK and further afield and this optimism has also been reflected in the island’s commercial sectors. It has been encouraging to see some notable businesses relocate their operations to our shores and there has been strong growth in several of the more established organisations.

However, whilst we may dance to our own beat in Guernsey and remain an excellent jurisdiction with which to do business, it is clear from the Landsbanki collapse that we are far from immune to the fallout. September’s report on jobs, from the REC and KPMG, showed that UK labour market conditions continued to deteriorate and that the overall demand for staff fell at the sharpest rate in the survey’s eleven-year history. Presently the general feeling amongst local agencies is that recruitment in Guernsey remains strong and that good-quality people in both the financial and commercial sectors continue to be in demand. But it is definitely a case of watch this space.

We are seeing an increase in the demand for professional temporary and flexible workers who can respond to businesses’ fluctuating staff requirements and we certainly expect to see an increase in employment in the risk and compliance areas as financial regulation weighs in to prevent the same mistakes being made again.

Even without the credit crunch, we had noticed some new recruitment trends developing. The principal shift has been a move away from employees defecting simply for more money. Increasingly we are talking to candidates who value their long-term career prospects over short-term financial gain. This means that more value is being placed on opportunities for professional development and training, for working in a pleasant and nurturing environment and on establishing a healthy work/life balance.

In addition to this, employers who offer flexible working hours and who are willing to accommodate part-time and job-share employees are definitely seeing their choice of strong candidates broaden. These trends are sure to continue and companies which embrace this new culture and are willing to offer these “soft” benefits will reap the rewards by attracting and retaining the best staff. At Leapfrog, our focus has consistently been on matching the right candidates to the right environment, as well as to the job itself and this has been key to our success rate.

One of the other fundamental criteria for Guernsey’s corporate prosperity is our ability to attract key talent from elsewhere. The topic of essential licences has always sparked debate and lately it has been generating a huge amount of contention between business leaders, the States and the local media. From a purely commercial perspective, it continues to be vitally important for licences to be issued where the skill set does not exist on the island. And where a licence is granted, we believe that employers have a social imperative to make the best use of those candidates both to fulfil their current business needs and for the purposes of up-skilling the local workforce for the future.

If, as we all hope, Guernsey plc continues to attract new business and to encourage the development of existing ones, there will remain a strong demand for well-trained and committed professionals. We may not see the dazzling starting salaries and bonuses of the nineties and the early noughties, but this new breed of worker is engendering a new breed of company, one which does not simply give lip service to the notions of corporate and social responsibility, but which embraces the role as a chance to set itself apart and to offer benefits that create long-term loyalty, performance and stability.

Professional recruitment agencies have a key role to play in the ongoing success of business in Guernsey. Our access to a broad and highly skilled network of candidates is of course invaluable, but we have also put great stock in building and maintaining relationships with candidates and clients alike. By understanding their long-term objectives as well as their immediate needs, we are able to deliver recruitment solutions that will help them move forward with confidence and without the hassle and uncertainty of managing the process themselves.

We can all expect to face challenging times over the coming months and years. But whilst many firms will be inclined to batten down the recruitment hatches, this is actually the time to gather the best team possible around you. In this regard, a trusted and well-connected recruitment consultant who understands your business will prove to be a very useful ally.