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Here's what Australia’s employment landscape looks like in 2021

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Australia’s employment landscape recovers as 43 per cent of companies raise headcount in 2021


The Talent Trends report published by Michael Page reveals that Australia’s employment landscape is booming, with 43 per cent of businesses expecting to increase their headcount in 2021.

According to the new survey, the sectors with the highest hiring activity in 2021 are industrial and manufacturing, retail, property, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) and professional services.

There is a growing need for critical roles in Australia’s healthcare, life sciences and technology sectors, with candidate shortages in the areas of development, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), automation, cybersecurity and cloud technologies.

Temporary workers and contractors are currently in high demand due to ongoing market uncertainty, with the employment landscape likely to be a blend of permanent, temporary, and outsourced staffing strategies.

In order to remain efficient and attract talent in the post-COVID climate, businesses will need to implement flexible and remote work policies, digital transformation initiatives to drive efficiency, and take steps to increase and improve internal communications.

Key findings

Hiring outlook

Even though hiring activities dipped by 52 per cent in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 43 per cent of businesses looking to increase employee numbers in 2021.

Contracting and temporary recruitment

Many companies are looking to invest in a combination of full-time hires, short-term contract hires, third-party service providers, outsourcing, and automation for basic processes as remote work becomes the new norm.

Specialist staff, contractors and temporary professionals are a priority for 23 per cent of companies due to the potential for flexible work arrangements and the freedom to prioritise short-term business needs.

Projected annual salary increases

Despite Australia’s first economic recession in nearly 30 years, 43 per cent of employers said they intend to increase employee salaries.

Projected bonus payment

Up to 35 per cent of businesses plan to give out bonus payments, with a higher percentage of those in Healthcare and Life Sciences, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Retail intending to give out more than one month’s bonus.

Promotion and career progression

18 per cent of companies expect to postpone employee promotions as middle management roles take the biggest hit.

In contrast, 65 per cent believe that business conditions and prospects will improve in the second quarter of the year.

Talent attraction strategies

Remuneration and benefits matter to 72 per cent of respondents, with other important considerations being flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, company culture, and office location.

The top two preferred talent attraction strategies by Australian companies are a dynamic company culture and flexible work arrangements.

When recruiting talent, employers are most concerned with skill sets, cultural fit, headcount budget, and soft skills.

Salary expectations

Only 1 in 10 job seekers expects zero remuneration increases from their current or last drawn salary as part of their new job offer.

Employer branding

Strong employer branding is essential for attracting top talent, with 2 in 5 respondents saying company research is important to them.

Job applicants want to know who the company is, what they stand for, and what their business strategy is.

Factors that influence employer brand rankings include a healthy work culture, company mission and values, strong financial performance, career growth opportunities, and strong brand recognition.

Candidate experience

The most common frustrations for prospective job candidates are lack of follow-up, little to no transparency on expectations and remuneration, and a lengthy and tedious application process.

As part of their remote hiring process, employers should be ready to scrutinise their branding and job descriptions, pay attention to skills and competencies on CVs, adapt communication with candidates by implementing video technology, make a strong offer, and provide remote on-boarding opportunities.

Talent retention strategies

Despite ongoing concerns with job security, 45 per cent of respondents who are employed say they will look for new job opportunities in 2021.

The main reasons for employees leaving their job include better remuneration, minimal growth opportunities, underutilised skills, lack of concern for employee well being, and lack of transparency in leadership communications.

In order to attract and retain in-demand professionals and talent, businesses will need to be prepared to address demands and answer questions about diversity and inclusivity, company culture, and brand values.

Employer experience

90 percent of respondents who are employed say their companies have room for improvement when it comes to relationships with colleagues, transparent communication, professional development, and a good work process.

An optimistic outlook for Australian jobs

Despite the major upheavals that began in 2020, Australia’s employment landscape looks promising with economic recovery set to begin in 2021.

“The quick containment of the virus, along with the shift to remote working, meant that many businesses continued with their hiring activities and plans sooner than anticipated, albeit remotely,” Senior Managing Director of Michael Page Australia, Sharmini Wainwright, said.

“Furthermore, the Australian government’s 2020/21 federal budget is reason for optimism – $677 billion worth of spending measures were announced, with many of the major policy initiatives helping to create new jobs.”

Over 5,500 businesses and 21,000 employees from 12 Asia Pacific markets, including Australia, responded to questions about digital readiness, organisational design, flexible work, leadership, performance management, and diversity and inclusion.


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