What does the Employment Landscape look like in 2020?

by Mike McDonagh, Director at Hays Ireland

Amidst the turmoil around Brexit and an uncertain economic backdrop, looking to the longer-term future can be a struggle. However, from my experience it’s important not to become too distracted by the wider issues that you can’t change and instead look at the things you can. Your hiring strategy is one such element.

The findings of the Hays Ireland Salary & Recruiting Trends 2020 guide show that hiring plans are expected to continue at similar levels to 2019, and most employers plan on engaging either permanent or temporary staff in the coming months. Although these hiring plans are more targeted compared to previous years, employers will continue to replace leavers so some of the hiring challenges remain. Will your staff be looking for new jobs, what does the employment landscape look like and what do your teams want from you as their employer?

Employers are looking for soft and technical skills

One prevailing theme is that employers continue to struggle with niche skills shortages and difficulties recruiting staff in a number of industries. Given that digital transformation is now an integral part of today’s workplace, the competition for talent with digital skills is particularly fierce. This is true across most sectors, but those niche shortages inevitably take a stronger hold in some industries, like IT.

But it’s not just technical skills shortages. Our findings also show that managerial and communication skills are most sought after by employers, with many on the lookout for candidates with the flexibility, adaptability and problem-solving skills that will enable them to achieve their business objectives.

Whilst many are looking to develop these skills, some organisations are turning to temporary workers as a more immediate fix to the skills gaps they face.

Employees want clear progression opportunities and pay transparency

Employers are benchmarking salaries to ensure they can secure the talent they need. Most employers foresee salary increases for their workforce in the year ahead, but most employees are still unhappy with their salary.

This year, transparency about how pay rises are awarded has been highlighted as an important consideration for professionals, yet a significant proportion of employers say their organisation is not consistently transparent about how salary rises are set. Perceived gender pay gaps are also an issue that have the potential to impact employee retention in the year ahead.

A lack of career progression was a key motivator for employees to change roles in the last year, and – excluding salary – a good work-life balance was considered the most important factor when considering a new role.

How does this impact hiring plans?

So, what does this mean for employers? What should organisations be doing in the year ahead in order to mitigate some of the challenges that may arise?

Increase pay transparency:

Transparency around pay is an important issue for professionals, many of whom also perceive there to be gender pay gaps, which is negatively impacting on the attraction and retention of staff. Pay transparency can help to narrow pay gaps between genders, so, put into action practical steps such as having clear promotion and pay structures as well as setting and publishing pay levels to improve transparency around pay within your own organisation. It is also important to undertake regular pay reviews. Assessing the pay needs of your team on an ongoing basis and being transparent about how pay levels and rises are set can help address salary requirements before it is too late to make an impact.

Focus on soft skills:

Competition from other employers is a rising challenge facing those who plan to hire in the year ahead. With management and communication skills proving especially difficult to find, it is imperative that hiring managers adapt their recruitment strategies to find the professionals with the right skills. Although having the right technical skills will always be important, soft skills such as people management and leadership are often much harder to learn and should therefore be coveted when you find them in a prospective candidate. Hiring for leadership potential should therefore be a priority.

Facilitate career progression opportunities and work-life balance:

Developing career plans with your team is vital to help keep current staff engaged with your organisation. Promoting career progression opportunities can help make your organisation more appealing to jobseekers. Flexible working is also considered important to professionals, and so should be another key focus both in job adverts and in communications to your current workforce.

Help establish a new pipeline of talent:

Employers believe one of the main causes of skills shortages is because fewer people are entering their industry. To help overcome this challenge, employers can consider broadening their search to find talent outside their usual pool of candidates and then put in place development programmes to help them learn the relevant skills. They should be looking to offer internships, graduate schemes and apprenticeships to make sure they engage with people looking to enter the workforce. Ensuring that the recruitment strategy actively targets and appeals to the next generation is essential.

Competitive attraction strategies remain vital. However much economic uncertainty might have tempered hiring plans, these gaps aren’t going away by themselves. Attracting candidates in the hard-to-fill roles remains a challenge and one that we need to tackle head on.