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Employees face redundancy, must adapt to survive

Employees face redundancy, must adapt to surviveA new survey from leading ASX-listed HR consulting, workforce management, outsourcing and recruitment company Chandler Macleod Group (CMG) has revealed that one in three candidates have been affected by redundancy either directly or indirectly. Many employees are now living in a state of fear about their job security. The future looks bleak for many Australian workers, but the key to survival is to adapt to the changes says CMG executive general manager, David Reynolds.

The research, undertaken by CMG in February, with 5,250 candidates surveyed, showed that many workers who remain in organisations that have recently made redundancies are anxious about their futures. Indeed, 76 percent of those who are left behind stated that they will be seeking new job opportunities in the next six months and over half of them directly attributed this decision to the “current economic climate”.

Another 12 months of pain – recovery will be slow

David Reynolds, Chandler Macleod Consulting’s Executive General Manager, said the economic downturn was much deeper and more challenging then most thought it would be.

“I believe that job losses will continue to rise steeply before the financial year end in June 2009 as organisations will need to show they have the strategies and structures in place to face the challenges of the financial year ahead.”

“It’s possible that we’ll have up to another 12 months of more pain before we start to see an improvement in the economy and the demand for candidates increase.  Unfortunately, in a typical downturn, jobs are the last to feel the full effects and the last to recover.  When recovery does come it will be slow at first and then escalate as organisations wait and look for signs of recovery before they commit to increased fixed costs.  As a result, many businesses may look for temporary hiring solutions or revert to a variable workforce to get them over the six to nine month recovery period and then we will see a return to the candidate-driven market,” said Mr Reynolds.

He added that companies had cut a fair degree of fat already and were now starting to cut into ‘muscle’.

“Unfortunately, when employers cut deep they cut out key talent and the heart of their organisation.  In order to save their jobs, sometimes employees need to share the risk and make sacrifices too,” he said.

50 percent of employees required to change their work mode

Australian employers are working hard to retain their talent.  However, up to 50 percent of employees may be required to change their work mode with their employer.  As a result of the economic slowdown, a number of initiatives have already been introduced such as the three to four-day working week, taking accrued leave, part-time and contract work, and sabbaticals.  One law firm is paying some of its employees 20 percent of their salaries to take a year off work.

Opportunities for job seekers still exist

According to CMG, there are opportunities for candidates who are prepared to update their skill sets to ensure they match the current needs of employers.  Not surprisingly, the candidates that are in greatest demand at the moment are those that have skills in risk mitigation, analysis, procurement and improving profitability and productivity.  In addition, organisations are looking for people who have experienced previous downturns.

CMG’s executive general manager of professional & executive recruitment, Peter Gleeson, said, “Candidates need to be aware which companies and sectors are still recruiting, and which new roles are being created as businesses realign themselves to survive.

“For example, we are seeing job growth in government, not-for-profit, health and utilities sectors.  We are also seeing good demand for job applicants in the industry areas of food such as fast food, bakeries and grocery chains.  By way of example, both Dominos Pizzas and Woolworths continue to hire and grow market share,” he said.

“Certainly, some people will be forced to change industries.  Financial services professionals are an obvious example of a group of people where many are being forced to reinvent themselves due to the extinction of their roles.

“Qualities that employers are looking for today in candidates are: resilience; strong leadership; ability to seek ways to remain competitive from a business development standpoint; and the ability to be more productive with limited resources,” Mr Gleeson said.

Applications for roles doubled in past three months – employers are looking for those who can make an impact on profitability today.

Mr Reynolds explained, “Competition for roles is certainly increasing, with applications doubling for jobs over the past three months.  Many candidates are not used to this level of competition as they’ve obtained employment relatively easily over the past five years.

“As a candidate, you need to do everything you can to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate the value you can bring to an organisation during this challenging period,” he said.

What candidates and employees need to do over the next 12 months:

  • Don’t assume your job is going to be safe; plan for alternative contingencies
  • If required, make concessions such as forgoing perks and benefits and consider taking a salary cut if it means you’ll keep your job
  • Research which industries and companies are hiring
  • Demonstrate to your current/prospective employer that you have skills relevant to the current market that will help the company survive and thrive; tell them how you can make a difference and meet objectives and goals in the current market
  • Use your network to speak with people connected with a particular organisation to gain as much insight as possible
  • Seek advice on which skills you need to highlight and/or update and undertake appropriate development courses – invest in your future
  • If looking for a new role then you may have to compromise in terms of position and salary
  • Consider taking a smaller bonus and a higher risk component in the salary package
  • Be prepared to take on flexible work options such as contract work, shorter working hours or weeks, or job sharing
  • Identify your key strengths and align these to the needs of the business and/or role
  • Ensure from the first time you make contact with a prospective employer you clearly demonstrate your capacity to change the area of business you are going into and can positively influence the company’s return on investment in an immediate fashion
  • Prepare a list of likely interview questions and work on the answers, ensuring you have responses that resonate with the company, which reflect the current business objectives the organisation is trying to achieve
  • Rehearse your interview with your recruitment or outplacement specialist to obtain constructive feedback and fine tune your approach
  • See this environment as an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do – what do you have to lose?

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