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Blog : Is HR sector-specific?

Blog

Is HR sector-specific?


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By Simon Kitto, Commercial Director at Purple Cubed

Organisations can be very prescriptive when recruiting HR candidates, with sector experience often high on the list of criteria. But what if the candidate has no experience of your organisation’s particular sector? Would you automatically reject them?

You would not be alone in doing so. However, according to specialist recruitment agency, Morgan McKinley1, the tide is starting to turn, with the market now considering employing HR candidates from other sectors. This gradual shift in attitude means that more organisations are willing to ‘take the risk’ on candidates who don’t have specific sector knowledge. This change is particularly noticeable with financial services (FS) organisations, which in the past would have overlooked a candidate if they did not come from a FS background, are now widening their recruitment net with candidates from the retail, FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) and oil and gas industries being placed into the banking sector. Recruitment net with candidates from the retail, FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) and oil and gas industries being placed into the banking sector.

But can a HR professional truly thrive and deliver value when they have no prior experience of the sector the organisation is operating in?

Our opinion is a firm yes - in the same way a leader can harness an organisation, department or team via leadership attributes rather than pure knowledge. While certain industries and organisations may argue for specific individual competencies and skills, it is important not to take a blinkered approach when appointing your next Head of People.

HR is a portable profession and the skills of a HR professional can easily be applied to new industries. And in our experience, we have also found that individuals recruited from totally different sectors can bring with them a new perspective and innovative ideas. After all, if companies only ever recruit from the same sector, how can HR innovate when they are only ever replicating ‘what has always been done’?

We do concede, however, that the more strategic HR professional is better placed to transfer between sectors whereas a transactional HR professional is likely to encounter greater stumbling blocks as processes and procedures between sectors can vary considerably.

Our advice to companies looking to recruit a hr leader is:

  1. Avoid stipulating that HR candidates must have sector specific experience. Widen the recruitment pool – you may be surprised by the high calibre of non-sector specific candidates you attract.
  1. Focus the recruitment process on transferable skills, HR competencies and strategic experience rather than industry-related skills and knowledge.
  1. Be open-minded to change and innovation. What new ideas and perspectives could the HRD bring to the role?

Change is already happening, it’s just time to speed it up. Organisations need to start thinking outside their industries, while HR professionals mustn’t be afraid to explore opportunities outside their comfort zones. By pushing away the sector barriers, HR professionals will be able to move between industries with greater ease, helping to drive innovation and deliver transformational change.

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