New Year, new promises – but how will UK HR Predictions affect Wales?

The early January HR press is awash with optimism. We’re hearing ‘it’s never been so good’! With record employment, the press are calling 2016 ‘The Year of the Candidate’.

Let’s take a minute before we all get carried away!

The CIPD recently called for caution. Employment in 2016 is due to exceed the forecasts made by the Independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) last autumn. However, despite the imposition of the new Living Wage, wage growth is likely to be lower than predicted. The CIPD also warned of low productivity, a prediction borne out by the recently released ONS statistics.

2016 did not start well for business in South Wales. Tata Steel announced 750 job losses at Port Talbot with further losses in Trostre. These losses will ripple down the supply chain, and overall jobs losses in the area could easily top the 2,500 mark. It’s grim reading for South Wales.

Thankfully, there are some real success stories as well as gloom and doom. Despite a depressing week, 2016 holds promise for the welsh region.

Sales of our software product, Activ Absence, are expected to grow substantially this year, creating new administration and technical roles. HR software is a vibrant, growing sector to be in – and it’s good to be creating jobs.

We may be small, but we created 20% more jobs in our small team last year and expect to double that in the latter part of this year. Businesses are recognising the need to tackle the rising cost of sickness absence and improve the way they handle staff holiday planning, and our market is growing fast.

It’s not just us – for those whose staff take holidays abroad, Cardiff Airport has seen a 13% increase in traffic, and low cost airline Flybe has announced extra routes for 2016 which is really positive news for the region.

This week alone, Pontypool Diamond Packaging has created 20 new jobs – and insurance giant Admiral announced the creation of 166 new jobs throughout the business they need to fill by February. These alone may not cover the huge losses in Port Talbot, but across the region as a whole, SMEs are growing, recruiting and gaining strength.

In a recent study by jobs board CV-Library, Cardiff featured in the top 10 cities where workers were most likely to get a pay rise.

Even in the steel industry, UK Steel Enterprise (UKSE) has been investing in Wales since 1975 when the organisation was formed, in those days as part of British Steel. After the privatisation of British Steel in the 1980s, it eventually became part of the Corus Group, and now it’s owned by Tata Steel.

In the four decades since it was formed, the organisation has invested £23.2m directly into 1,383 Welsh businesses and created 25,000 jobs as a result – far more than the job losses announced this week.

The chancellor, George Osborne, hailed the success of the Millennium Stadium in his recent address to Cardiff Business Club. He also noted that since 2010, 70,000 jobs have been created in the area and unemployment has fallen by 30%.

Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb has announced the Government’s intention to boost capital investment in the region by £900 million over the next five years.

The Welsh Assembly is getting increased power to set business rates, and, from 2018, the power to set Stamp Duty and Landfill taxes too, and hopefully the power to set income tax soon.

Finally, the tourist industry is expected to see a massive boost as terrorism abroad creates increased demand for ‘holidaying at home’. There’s good reason anyway: West Wales and the Gower offers stunning scenery, a pleasant climate and always a warm welcome from friendly people. Just one more reason I’m proud of our region.

We bounced back from the end of coal mining followed by a painful recession, and we’ve proved consistently that the Welsh are hard-working, innovative, resilient and flexible.

The depressing news from Tata Steel is a massive blow for the area, and even more so for the workers and supply chain involved, but one thing is certain, the Welsh will look forward – and many still hope that the British steel industry can be saved.

Despite centuries of change, no other people adapts, hopes or supports like the Welsh – it’s in our blood. I’m reminded of an English variant of the traditional welsh folk song Ar Hyd y Nos: “Though our hearts be wrapt in sorrow, from the hope of dawn we borrow, promise of a glad tomorrow, all through the night”

Here’s to a successful Welsh 2016!

Adrian Lewis is the commercial director for welsh software developers Codel Software and has been advising businesses on how software can best manage HR challenges for more than 10 years. 

Image credit: Andrew Bowden