Job seekers set to reap benefits

By Raewyn Court

Rising business confidence will be a two-way street for employees and employers as more opportunities arise

If employees want a done deal in a new job they have to be realistic in their expectations. Photo / Thinkstock
If employees want a done deal in a new job they have to be realistic in their expectations. Photo / Thinkstock

Rising job seeker confidence will see more than half of employees looking to change jobs in the next 12 months, says Pete Macauley, NZ regional director of recruitment consultancy Michael Page.

"Job seekers have been holding back from seeking a new job as they perceived the market to be flat, but candidates are now looking for external opportunities to progress their career or receive a promotion."

Macauley says although employers can retain staff through various incentives, they have been limited in their ability to progress staff during the economic downturn. "In these instances, employees decide to look to external opportunities which have become available due to attrition."

As more people look externally, an increase in employee attrition occurs, resulting in increased job vacancies being advertised. A cycle develops where an increase in jobs advertised improves perceptions of the job market, meaning more employees explore external opportunities, leading to higher levels of attrition. "As you can see, the job market can be driven and influenced by job seekers alone," he says.

Macauley cautions professionals need to be realistic about applying for roles and should assess whether they meet their professional goals, and whether their skills and experience meet the employer's needs. "Employers continue to be selective about who they hire as they need to be confident in the applicant's ability to add value. It is more difficult to secure a job than it was [before the global financial crisis (GFC)], as employers are conscious of the added skills required to achieve growth. To improve their chances, job seekers should upskill, build on their professional experience and demonstrate the value they provide in their current role and the added value they will provide the new employer."

The Michael Page NZ Employees Intentions Report says most people surveyed indicated the benefit they would most like to receive from their employer was a bonus.

Macauley says in the past five years he has witnessed fewer employees receiving their "on target" bonus, possibly because of their inability to achieve or exceed pre-GFC set targets. Employers need to be realistic when setting targets and budgets that influence bonuses, ensuring the targets are attainable. "Employers should always consider their strongest talent and the business cost of losing them if one's earning potential is limited due to unrealistic targets."

Macauley says there is no common trend in how employees use their bonuses but many professionals have been utilising their bonuses to reduce debt.

The report indicates a third of those wanting a salary increase are looking for at least 10-12 per cent. Macauley says only those with the strongest results and track record can achieve this level and employees need to be realistic before setting their expectations. On the other hand, if employers want to retain their best staff, and if budget allows, "my advice is to offer the increases today. On too many occasions we have witnessed, following a resignation, employers presenting a counter-offer of a higher-than-average salary increase to retain their talent. In many instances, a counter-offer is too late."

Just as employers look for value in an employee, job seekers look for value in an employer and how the employer will contribute to their career growth. Macauley says key to attracting and retaining staff is a well structured and clearly communicated learning and development programme. "This typically involves a road map of training courses for employees from their induction through to the time they leave the company. Training courses are tailored to the area or function of the business the professional works within, but also focus on developing transferable or 'soft' skills such as time management, presentation, influencing and business communication.

"To measure and track an employee's progress, learning management systems can be used to record staff progression and flag when an employee becomes eligible for their next course, such as leadership and management training."

Macauley adds this system is also used to manage employee performance, as an employer can review progress on a regular basis which is useful for assessing and identifying staff ability to progress in their role and to highlight areas for improvement.

The report indicates that work-life balance is another important factor in the attraction and retention of staff, with 80 per cent of respondents in favour of flexible working arrangements.

Macauley says employees are looking for options that allow them to reduce conflict between work and personal life, and these include remote access and work from home options, negotiable working hours, offsite technology and mobile work spaces, part-time work, job-sharing assignments, provision of childcare facilities in office complexes, and compressed work schedules, such as condensing the standard working week hours into fewer days.

The report also says a higher superannuation contribution is the second most popular benefit after bonuses and is higher than receiving a company car.

Macauley says professionals have become more aware of the financial benefits the KiwiSaver scheme provides. "We have witnessed an increase in professionals requesting increased contributions as part of the salary negotiation," he says. "Further, employers have now had six years to assess and structure KiwiSaver into cost models and remuneration packages.

"As a result, we are witnessing more employers providing a corporate contribution above the offered base salary today, in comparison to the corporate contribution being included in the base salary in the first two years of the scheme."


• This month, Herald Jobs, in conjunction with The Career Specialists, are starting a career advice column. Send your career-related questions to: careers@nzherald.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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