Skills shortages top employment issues for 2011

Salary pressure and social media among issues to dominate the employment market in the New Year, says Hays

December 10, 2010

Salary pressure, overseas recruitment and social media are among the key issues that will dominate the employment market in 2011, according to recruiting experts Hays.

Topping the recruiter’s list is the ability of the resources industry to overcome skills shortages.

"In Queensland as well as right across the country, the jobs market is now very active, with healthy levels of movement, a strong economy and new projects coming on line," Hays’ Queensland Director Darren Buchanan says.

"But a shallow pool of talent in many specialist areas is the biggest threat to growth, which is why the ability to overcome skills shortages in not only the resources industry, but across the whole resources chain, will become the defining characteristic of the employment market in 2011," Buchanan says.

"It is also the catalyst for many of the other issues we expect to dominate in 2011, like salary pressure, the growth of counter offers and recruiting from overseas," he says.

According to Buchanan, a second employment issue for 2011 will be the NBN skills battle.

"The IT sector is also bracing itself for the impact of the National Broadband Network on the availability of talent," he says.

"While an influx of overseas skilled professionals is expected to help ease demand, the natural consequence of rising contract rates is that people will leave a permanent role to take advantage."

Salary pressure and bonuses are also flagged as an issue for the New Year.

Buchanan says the GFC-induced salary slowdown is now a distant memory and the salary expectations of employees are rising on the back of the strong Australian dollar and job numbers.

He says employers are responding to the emerging shortage of skills with a greater willingness to review salaries.

"There is no doubt that professionals with skills in demand will expect a healthy salary increase in 2011. Otherwise, they will enter the jobs market."

Similarly, bonuses may be reviewed as a result of the growing number of shareholders engaging on pay structures as well as Federal Government executive pay reforms, which are expected to take effect later in the year.

Companies are expected to dig deep to retain their top talent in the face of a tightening candidate market.

"According to our last Hays Salary Guide, 40 percent of organisations counter offer departing staff, but two-thirds of employees still leave within 12 months," Buchanan says.

However, he says a successful counter offer involves more than just money.

"Employers need to make sure they address the underlying issue of why their employee decided to look for a new job in the first place."

Despite widespread agreement that employers will need to recruit migrants to head off the growing list of skills in demand, Buchanan says there remains a lot of reluctance about this particular strategy for helping to overcome skills shortages.

"Certainly, employers will talk about recruiting from overseas, but there are not many that actually do it, or that do it well," he says.

On the flipside, there is also a need to "plug the leak" of skilled Australians heading overseas for work.

"Employers are using bonus schemes, health and life insurance, gym memberships, stock options or education benefits to try to stem the flow, but it is time to get more innovative when it comes to retention in order to hold onto key staff," Buchanan says.

"This means looking at more than just salary and benefits, towards the implementation of solid career development plans," he says.

According to Buchanan, mine tragedies in New Zealand and Chile could have an impact on the resources industry.

"Generation Y are nothing if not environmentally and safety aware," he says.

"So an ongoing challenge for the industry globally in 2011 will be to reduce the number and severity of incidents and address the concerns of job seekers."

While the resources industry is fuelling the economy, Buchanan says it is also likely to put more pressure on interest rates as the Reserve Bank attempts to balance growth against the risk of inflation.

"The impact of likely rate rises on the employment market is a concern as it could lead to greater conservatism from job seekers," he says.

As a final point, Hays expects the use of social media checks to become more mainstream in 2011.

"No longer will it be just the savvy employers that use social media to cross-reference a candidates’ employment history or evaluate potential employees," Buchanan says.

"The lines between social and business sites have blurred and social media profiles will be viewed just as often as an employer searches a candidate’s name via Google," he says.

This publicly-available information is also expected to be used when employers consider promotions and succession planning.

"So in 2011 it will be not just job seekers that need to ensure their online profile remains professional, but all employees," Buchanan adds.

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