How is the UK Procurement job market recovering?

Hiring might not be top of your agenda at the moment but the procurement profession is lucky to have one of the more robust professional job markets.   Furthermore, the profession is facing unprecedented challenges to make some major cost savings in difficult circumstances, so it’s interesting to consider how that will impact on the demand for interim and permanent resources in the procurement job market?

We thought it would be useful to help you understand what we are seeing in the market whether you are planning to hire, trying to keep your best people or considering your own options.

Firstly let’s consider some interesting data seen by Edbury Daley from a report produced by Vacancysoft in conjunction with APSCo.   The research looked at trends across all professional job markets (with salaries of £40k upwards) in London and offered sector by sector trends. It told us the following:

“Prior to the COVID-19 crisis we would expect on average that there would be between 500 and 600 professional vacancies per day in the capital, across all sectors. With that in mind we can see that at the beginning of Q2, the five day rolling average was 167, understandable given that we were in the early stages of lockdown. In contrast, on July 31st, this had increased to 358, and, in fact, there were multiple days in July where daily totals exceeded 400. While there’s certainly still some room for improvement, the capital’s hiring is clearly heading in the right direction.

When analysing activity by sector, Technology continues to dominate in terms of vacancy numbers, with activity up 33% compared to June. However, while it accounts for a significant proportion of the capital’s hiring, Technology was far from the best performing sector when measuring month on month change, with other specialisms outperforming it including Consumer Goods & Services (up 58%) and Real Estate & Construction (up 46%.)

The fact that so many other sectors outperformed Technology in this regard has resulted in the share of professional vacancies in the sector dropping to under 30% of all roles posted in London, for the first time since before the outbreak.”

The top six sectors for hiring activity in London are Technology, Banking, Retail, Consumer goods, Professional services (accounting & consulting), Real estate and Construction and Insurance.

So what is happening specifically in the procurement job market?  Here is what we are seeing and hearing from across our network:

Hiring restrictions for permanent staff are still commonplace for major organisations in the UK across many verticals in the private sector.

Anecdotal evidence that we have gathered through speaking to people across the profession tells us that the picture is most positive in technology markets, pharmaceuticals, professional services, healthcare and banking.

New or additional headcount for procurement departments, a key factor that drives demand in strong markets (and salary inflation over recent years) is understandably rare and that in turn impacts on the demand for replacement hiring as there are less moves in the market generally to warrant said replacements.

There is little evidence of redundancies being made in procurement teams so far. The wider UK job market is braced for this in September and October but we expect procurement to be in a stronger position to maintain headcount than other functions.   Procurement leaders certainly hope this will be the case given the pressure they are under to deliver in key areas, particularly driving cost down projects where possible and maintaining business-critical supply lines.

The Interim Market

During lockdown there was a spike in interim contractors coming to the market having had their projects canceled or delayed with organisations moving swiftly to limit non-essential spend.  This has since slowed and there is now evidence of contractors having their assignments extended as cost-saving initiatives become more important, and in many cases gathering pace as organisations adapt to the current climate.

However, there is still significant spare capacity in the interim market as is demonstrated every time we advertise a role, and from the amount of incoming CV’s we have from people seeking new assignments.

With experienced procurement leaders talking about “pressure for cost savings like never before,”  (something we’ve also heard that consultancies and software vendors in areas like spend analytics) the interim market may offer quick, effective solutions to many organisations, particularly with the option to hire for six months or so before IR35 kicks in for the new tax year in 2021.

New Hiring Challenges

For those companies that are recruiting or thinking about their plans for later this year, it’s worth thinking about the questions that are facing hiring managers in this unique set of  market conditions:

How do you make effective hires without meeting candidates face to face?

How do you onboard people if your offices aren’t open or have limited capacity?

Are people reluctant to move jobs for security reasons?

What are employers’ work from home policies and how are they going to change?

We’ve been working with clients to address all these questions so if you want to hear how other companies are managing these challenges we’d be happy to help.

Please contact me via

Andrew Daley

Director – Procurement & Spend Management