How top companies are now having to work harder to draw and retain the best talent
Abacus Careers Managing Director, Stuart John
Attracting and retaining the best talent is a challenge many organisations face. In recent years, commercial businesses of all sizes have considered in detail the question of employee reward when it comes to two business critical issues, recruitment and retention. With latest official figures showing local unemployment rates at a record low this year, new research reveals that Northern Ireland companies are increasingly providing compelling working packages to secure the staff they need to succeed both locally and internationally.
The annual NI Salary Survey Report carried out by Abacus Careers, part of the Abacus Talent Group, surveyed over 1,000 professionals across five sectors covering 20 segments and 60 specific job titles.
There has been an influx of global firms to Northern Ireland and an increase in local companies exporting their services outside their home market. This external focus presents an additional need to adapt employment models to meet the demands of delivering
international services to different time zones around the globe.
Many employers seek to retain staff by offering a competitive salary, but while salary still plays a role in attracting talent, it doesn’t necessarily keep employees around. The research shows that many forward-thinking businesses are embracing other forms of employee reward to assist with staff retention and are delivering increasingly competitive workplace packages, with an increased focus on work-life balance, flexible working, bonuses and personal development.
Approximately 52% of professionals now avail of flexible working in NI, an increase of 9% from last year. The legal sector is leading in this area with an average of over 60% working flexibly and includes working from home, flexible start and finish times and time in-lieu. The results are a significant improvement from the previous year’s results where the sector was averaging at 48%. Sales support roles were least likely to include flexible working at 24%.
Recruiting and retaining employees can be a tricky task and it can be even more challenging for SMES who don’t have the same resources larger organisations have at their disposal. Being a smaller fish in the pond, however, isn’t always a bad thing and although a challenge, smaller firms can stand out when competing for top talent by adapting a ‘common-sense’ approach. We find that businesses that can offer flexible solutions to suit all parties will also be well-positioned when it comes to their employer brand and retaining a steady workforce.
Despite a climate of political and economic uncertainty, from dealing with Brexit and an absent Executive, employees are remaining positive. Bsinesses should be aware that expectations for increases in basic pay are up among employees. Approximately 76% of female and 75% of male respondents surveyed expect a salary increase in the year ahead — a 9% and 4% increase respectively on last year. Expectations were particularly high among those working in the legal sector, with 91% of males and 93% of females expecting a rise.
With salaries being a major element of core costs, this news may concern business leaders who are keen to protect profit margins, however, we should take this news in context. In the last five years basic pay increases have been low and, in some cases, negative. The market is returning to a normal phase and indeed, the recent announcement by the Bank of England warning of more frequent interest rate rises in the future suggests they predict the economy to perform better than expected in the short term.