Australia is about to enter one of the hottest jobs markets in a decade, say HR experts, with new research predicting recruitment will rebound this year as pandemic-induced job cuts are reversed.
A year after corporate Australia sent office workers home due to COVID-19, new research also reveals some bosses still are not convinced of the benefits of remote working and one in three HR professionals believe a negative stigma around work from home remains a top challenge.
The HR Industry Benchmark Survey of 1800 HR professionals by Elmo Software and the Australian HR Institute reveals optimism around hiring is starting to return, with two in five HR professionals in Australia and New Zealand anticipating their organisations will increase staff numbers in 2021. Just 15 per cent of those surveyed anticipated further job cuts in 2021.
“This is really good news, it shows the optimism of organisations going into a post-COVID world,” said Elmo Software chief executive Danny Lessem. “In terms of economic activity, this is very heartening.”
HR professionals in information media and telecommunications, manufacturing and transport, postal and warehousing were most optimistic about recruitment rebounding this year.
More than half of those surveyed (56 per cent) in information media and telco anticipated their workforce would increase, compared to 48 per cent in manufacturing and 45 per cent in transport, postal and warehousing.
Mr Lessem said small businesses were most bullish, with 44 per cent of SMEs expecting to increase their workforce in 2021.
“This runs contrary to some public commentary, which suggests that small businesses are facing economic headwinds in 2021,” he said. “This is an encouraging sign that we are moving in the right direction as we progress into a post-COVID economy.”
It comes as data earlier this month revealed job advertisements have hit their highest levels since October 2018.
The research echoes similar trends seen by Alec Bashinsky, an Asia-Pacific partner at the Josh Bersin Academy, a HR consultancy.
“The research we’re seeing globally, and certainly it’s been mirrored here in Australia, is that we’re about to enter one of the hottest job markets in a decade,” he said.
“The fact that we’re unable to access international workers across all industries automatically puts pressure on companies to ensure they are engaging with and working with their people.
“Also what we’re seeing in the research is that we expect that wages will go up during this type of labour shortage.
“If organisations are not connected with their employees and that means communication, giving them interesting and varied assignments, employees these days are going to look for opportunities elsewhere and we’re seeing a bit of that in Australia at the moment in the professional services market.”
Mr Bashinsky said after the turbulence of last year, employers needed to realise they could be facing an exodus of talent as the market recovers.
“If they haven’t done it already, it’s a bit like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted,” he said.
“No. 1, organisations have to do a better job at marketing their own internal opportunities, and the second thing is that they need to have been chief empathy officers and that means staying connected, making sure that the employee experience is strong.“
The HR Industry Benchmark Survey revealed it takes 33 days and costs on average $10,500 – and more than twice as much for a C-level executive – to fill a vacant position.
The survey also found that getting consistency from managers to allow flexible work options within their teams has emerged as the biggest challenge of flexible work.
Maintaining adequate communication and collaboration between remote and in-office staff were also listed as top challenges, with a quarter of those surveyed saying they had struggled to convince senior management about the benefits of flexible work options.
The survey found that most (80 per cent) organisations offered flexible start and finish times, half offered work from home sporadically or one to two days a week and a third offered compressed hours.
Upskilling, cross-skilling or reskilling employees, leadership development and an increase in remote working were ranked as the top three challenges facing organisations in the next 12 months.
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