Overview of the UK's HR and recruitment industry

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
December, 2022

Although HR and recruitment professionals make up just 1% of the UK workforce, they're a vital part of any organisation and improving digital skills is one of the sector's key challenges

What areas of HR can I work in?

Nearly every type of organisation needs HR staff, so there are opportunities in all sectors.

If you work in-house at a large company - you'll be part of a HR team, and may specialise in one or more of these areas:

  • employee engagement
  • employee relations
  • employment law
  • health and safety
  • industrial relations
  • learning and development (L&D)
  • payroll and pensions
  • performance and reward
  • recruitment and talent management
  • strategy and organisation development
  • training.

At small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), you'll likely perform a range of different tasks related to these disciplines. However, this will depend on the needs of the business and your role within the range of human resources jobs.

While human resources officer is a common job title, other positions may focus on a related field such as L&D, careers coaching or occupational psychology.

Not all organisations have a traditional HR department. Some now outsource services such as recruitment, payroll and pensions management to external dedicated human resources outsourcing (HRO) companies, recruitment agencies or consultancies.

If you're looking to specialise in recruitment, you should look at large international agencies such as Adecco. Many smaller independent agencies specialise in an industry or particular sector, such as education or digital.

To see what's on offer, search graduate jobs in recruitment and HR.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Some organisations offer HR as one element of a general management programme, but HR graduate schemes are offered by many leading employers, including:

  • Balfour Beatty
  • Boots
  • BP
  • Centrica
  • Civil Service Fast Stream
  • DHL
  • GSK (GlaxoSmithKline)
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • KPMG
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Mitchells & Butlers
  • Network Rail
  • NHS
  • Nestlé
  • PwC
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Royal Mail Group.

There may also be opportunities for internships and work placements with a strong HR focus. Find out how to get a job in HR.

Recruitment consultancies also take on graduates. These include:

  • Adecco Group
  • Big Red Recruitment
  • Cititec
  • Client Server
  • Hays
  • ManpowerGroup
  • PageGroup
  • Randstad
  • REED
  • Spencer Ogden.

What's it like working in HR?

Graduates entering the recruitment and HR sector can expect:

  • a competitive industry with strict deadlines and targets
  • high earning potential as the average salary for HR professionals is £37,428, according to Reed.co.uk, with some companies offering commission and bonus schemes
  • to be rewarded for having qualifications and a wealth of experience - HR officers earn around £24,000 to £35,000, but managers earn between £35,000 and £55,000 and directors can earn in excess of £80,000
  • self-employment as an option for those with experience and the right qualifications, especially with outsourcing making consultancy work increasingly common.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions, browse recruitment and HR job profiles.

What are the challenges facing the HR sector?

  • Hybrid working - Many people are now splitting their working week between home and office working, which has brought new challenges for companies. HR professionals are key in negotiating the best working practices with employees and having difficult conversations when it comes to getting people back at their desks.
  • Diversity monitoring - In order to create the most inclusive and diverse workforce organisations must first have the data from the employees who may not feel comfortable answering questions on their sexual orientation or religion. HR professionals will be needed to communicate why the data is needed and create a culture of trust so that everyone knows what it is being used for.
  • Wellbeing - Top of many HR agendas is ensuring that the mental health of all their staff is looked after. This includes encouraging people to take breaks, providing mental first aiders throughout the organisation and offering training and awareness about spotting the signs and how to help others.

Find out more

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