Strong demand continues for HR

by 04 Mar 2008

CONTINUED HIGH demand for skilled HR professionals has prompted both permanent and temporary HR salaries to increase by an average of 15 per cent across the country in 2007, and the prospects for HR candidates continue to look good into 2008.

A Robert Walters global salary survey has found that hiring and retention will remain a core focus for employers who want to stay ahead of the market, and the onus will increasingly lie with the employer to sell the job to the candidate.

“Highly-skilled human resource professionals have proven to be a major commodity to employers, especially as many companies grapple with the pressures of tight candidate market,” said Mary Joseph, manager of business support and human resources, Robert Walters.

With Australian unemployment levels at record lows, she said staffing is one of the single largest issues facing the entire market, and many organisations are realising the value of incorporating long-term and effective HR practices into the company’s core values to improve staff satisfaction and in turn, candidate attraction.

“As such HR candidates with solid experience will hold huge appeal to prospective employers, especially with specialised skills in remuneration and benefits, training, development and recruitment,” she said.

However, with high demand for specialists in a limited candidate pool, Joseph said the competition for talent is high.

“As a result employers are often looking to candidates with transferable or generalist skills with the view to train them into the position. In turn, this relies on a robust training and support system to bring candidates up to scratch.”

The Robert Walters survey revealed the extent to which the skills shortage has defined business priorities and growth as well as candidate confidence across the local market in 2007.

Richard Parnell, CEO of Robert Walters Asia-Pacific, said that there is no escaping the significant pressures of the skills shortage with unemployment at a 30-year low.

“In effect, strategic recruitment and staff retention have to become ingrained in the long-term growth and succession plans for Australian business,”he said.

“The candidate market is rife with counter-offers and significant pay rise increases, while employers find themselves under pressure to quickly adapt to market demand and develop ‘full-package’ salary and benefits to attract the top talent,” Parnell said. “In many instances the so-called shift in power has seen candidates confidently hold-off on job offers, instead waiting for the most attractive packages.”

On the general recruitment front, Joseph said the most successful employers were those who sought to get candidates on board fastest and were more willing to provide guaranteed bonuses and buy-out notice periods.

“Many also showen a willingness to pay above and beyond salary guidelines to secure the right candidate, and the number of contract positions also increased as companies looked to solve their immediate staffing needs.”

It has become more common for organisations across all industry sectors to introduce reward programs and bi-annual salary reviews for exceptional performance, and she said many are recognising their employees with an annual bonus.

“As well as financial incentives, employees are developing comprehensive training programs, allowing employees to work from home where appropriate or permitting greater flexibility in the hours that employees work.”

In some instances across the banking sector, companies have taken on a headcount surplus in order to secure the highest calibre candidates in the market.

The Robert Walters survey statistics also predict a 10–15 per cent salary increase across the board in 2008, while executive level candidates, especially those in legal, finance and accounting industries in the major cities, might in some cases collect up to double that figure.

“Certain niche skills have come into higher demand,” said Parnell.

“For instance, experience with the sales and management of private wealth, superannuation and retirement products provides great opportunity. In infrastructure there is also an acute skills shortage of large-scale project managers as few people hold experience across such large projects.”

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