Employment market: Light at the end of the tunnel?

by HCA15 Jul 2009

Australian employers are being urged not to rush into further workforce cuts in response to the economic downturn, despite the Australian Bureau of Statistics June Labour Force results revealing unemployment has risen 0.1% to 5.8%.

After a large increase in the May jobless rate, June's growth has slowed the general trend of rising unemployment. In addition, the ABS statistics showed a slight decrease in the overall participation rate to 65.3%.

In June, full-time employment decreased by 21,900 to 7,611,800, with part-time employment increasing by 400 to 3,150,000.

While the ABS figures reflect the growing impact of the financial downturn on businesses in Australia, figures from other leading indicators show that a recovery may be on the way. The International Monetary Fund has upgraded its forecasts for a global recovery and this month's Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment index surged by 9.3%.

The latest Hays Quarterly Report also indicates that employers are hiring – candidates just need to know where. The report indicates that employers have started to take a more positive approach towards their staffing needs. "The wait and see approach to recruitment is beginning to lift, with many companies planning for additional headcount," said Grahame Doyle, director of Hays Human Resources (pictured).

"A number of key roles are forthcoming, and the fact that employers are now planning for these roles is a positive step."

Deb Loveridge, CEO of Randstad (Asia Pacific), added that employers need to look beyond any current difficulties and plan their workforce for the long term.

"It's easy to base headcount levels on the situation today, but companies need to look at their workforce level as a long-term strategy. Recent indicators suggest that consumers and businesses are becoming more optimistic. If this is true and a recovery follows, businesses need to have the best workforce in place to manage an upturn in demand. Making hasty job cuts now could damage a company in the long term.

"If cost reductions need to be made businesses need to be smart about where they make any cuts. Cutting costs doesn't just mean retrenching staff. It can mean looking at flexible work options, changes to the working week or giving employees the chance to travel with a view to returning in a few months time. By being flexible now employers can be well placed for a recovery."

According to the Hays report, employers are hiring HR professionals in the following areas:

  • Learning and development: "L&D candidates, particularly instructional designers, are in high demand from employers at present for leadership development, staff engagement and long-term retention purposes."
  • Change managers: "These candidates have also emerged as an area of demand, since companies are embarking on business process reform projects. Meanwhile, project candidates, especially those in OH&S, learning and development and change, are needed."
  • OH&S: "This is seen as a particular skill of value, since good systems can prove a financial benefit."
  • Industrial relations: "Industrial relations candidates are needed due to workplace law updates."
  • HR generalists and coordinators/advisors: "HR generalists with ER, recruitment and performance management backgrounds are sought due to current market conditions, while HR coordinators and HR advisors are sought for temporary assignments. These candidates are often appointed over a senior HR professional as a cost saving measure."


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