Flexibility ‘key to recruitment & retention’ as cost of living soars

Posted By:
Nijobs.com Ltd.

25th Apr 2022

The latest ‘NIJobs.com Job Report with Ulster Bank’ indicates that the job market is rebalancing following the unprecedented surge in recruitment of the last twelve months. The number of people looking for new opportunities is on the up, with NIJobs recording a 20% rise in applications for roles in the first three months of 2022,  compared to the same period last year.

Listings on the NIJobs.com platform in Q1 2022 eased back 4% relative to the previous quarter and 14% below Q3 2021’s high water mark which coincided with last summer’s ‘Great Reopening’. Despite the slowdown in job postings, the level of demand was 61% above Q1 2021 levels and 68% higher than the corresponding quarter in 2019 (which pre-dated the pandemic).

Although there are signs of stabilisation after a record surge across the recruitment market, demand for skills and certain roles is still exceeding supply in some sectors. The top in-demand professional roles that companies have been seeking throughout Q1 include Software Engineers and Developers, Project Managers and Business Analysts.

The first three months of the year has also shown renewed jobseeker activity with more people looking for new jobs. As well as a post pandemic re-evaluation of their career choices, the current cost of living squeeze may also be a factor in driving the increased interest in job hunting. It’s time for employers to adapt, rethink and be more flexible in their approach in order to attract the best candidates.

The three sectors that contributed most to the reduction in listings in Q1 2022 were Retailing, Wholesaling & Purchasing (-41%), Hospitality (-29%) and Nursing, Healthcare & Medical (-25%). Clearly, these falls are linked to the filling of positions advertised in earlier quarters. Two-thirds of the employment categories (21 out of 31) actually saw more positions advertised in the latest quarter than in Q4 last year. Sales positions (+31% q/q); Social, Charity & Not For Profit (+48% q/q); and Secretarial & Admin (+17% q/q) reported the largest increases in job listings.

Sam McIlveen, General Manager at NIJobs.com, comments on the latest report: “People have changed and so too must the recruitment process. Introducing a framework of flexibility is key to support current and future hiring needs.

“UK inflation hitting 7% will be a factor in people’s minds as they consider career options for 2022 and beyond. A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Management (CMI) indicated that more than 80% of firms have adopted hybrid working models and it can be an attractive choice for both employer and employee. It offers businesses savings on city centre premises and, on the flip side, can offer a much broader talent pool during recruitment and improves staff retention too.

“Concerns around the rise in cost of living will mean seeking out those employers that do offer hybrid models and higher salaries. Its also important to see how you can ensure that employees feel valued and incentivised. What can you offer in terms of perks, benefits and working models to stand out from competitors whilst managing inflation costs as a business?  Wellbeing is another factor that people are currently looking for on their career wishlist – engaging regularly will ensure your team doesn’t feel physically or mentally isolated within the new hybrid environment.

“It’s also worthwhile considering changing traditional hiring tactics with a more flexible mindset too. Consider upskilling existing talent within the organisation to retain good employees that will help your company thrive, especially in those sectors that don’t rely as heavily on qualifications such as hospitality or retail. Equally, if there’s a full time position that needs to be filled but you’re experiencing difficulty finding the right candidate in the current market, why not hire two part time roles instead. This could benefit both business and employee so they can manage their work/ life balance.”

The NIJobs.com Job Report with Ulster Bank has been offering insight into local recruitment trends for four years alongside the economic environment and the types of roles jobseekers are searching for online.

Ulster Bank’s Chief Economist Richard Ramsey adds further insight to the Job Report: Hiring amongst employers has continued at a robust pace, albeit the volume of job listings is down on the previous two quarters. This moderation is not unexpected as businesses acclimatise to the post-lockdown world and the end of stop-start restrictions.  

“Ten employment categories on NIJobs.com recorded their highest job listings since the series began. These included HR, Legal, Marketing, Secretarial & Admin, Banking, Financial services & insurance, Construction, Architecture & Property, Publishing, Media & Creative Arts, Public Sector and Policing. 

“There was continued strong demand within Production, Manufacturing & Materials and Accountancy & Finance with the latter close to a record number of listings in Q1 2022. Despite these latest declines Nursing, Healthcare and Medical is still ranked number one for the number of vacancies – 1 in every 6 listed on NIJobs.com. Hospitality has moved into third spot, overtaken by IT – the latter accounted for 1 in 11 of Q1’s listings. Accountancy & Finance and Sales occupy the fourth and fifth positions respectively, regarding the top employment categories for advertised positions. Together these five categories account for 44% of all the jobs listed in Q1.

“The evolving cost-of-living squeeze is going to get worse before it gets better. Individuals receiving pay increases above, or even in-line with inflation will be the exception rather than the rule. Given the inflationary environment, there has been a first-mover advantage for those employers finalising ‘generous’ pay settlements early. What was perceived as ‘generous’ a few months ago may now look pretty miserable in light of inflation hitting 7% and beyond.

“The cost of living is just one consideration within pay negotiations. The state of the labour market is another. From an employer’s perspective, labour conditions are the most challenging in decades. Skills shortages are prevalent across the economy with vacancies at record highs and unemployment close to record lows. The pandemic and working from home has loosened employees’ ties to their employer like never before. This has been one factor contributing to the so called Great Resignation alongside people seeking to reset their lifestyle and priorities.

“In the current labour market and cost of living environment, 12 months is a very long time to review pay and benefits. In order to retain talent and secure new employees we can expect to see more frequent reviews of pay and benefits packages. But for some sectors, such as the hospitality industry, the cost of doing business is becoming extremely difficult. Balancing the cost of doing business and protecting staff from the cost-of-living squeeze is no mean feat.   

“The cost-of-living crisis will act as a further incentive for people to change jobs if such a move means securing a higher salary. This makes it challenging for employers who will be increasingly under pressure to pay more to retain staff as well as attract new talent. For employers, both the unemployment and inflation rates are moving in the wrong direction.”