Hiring talent won’t get any easier in 2022

Hiring talent won’t get any easier in 2022

20 December 2021 by Justin Rush

I have been speaking with several clients in recent months, we talk in detail about their frustrations and challenges regards securing suitable talent for their professional services organisations.  2021 has been memorable for reasons we would much rather not refer to, but in the context of hiring staff, it has also been pretty remarkable.  I did not think in January of this year, we would see so much happen in so short a time.

At the beginning of 2021 I would have said we had a cautious optimism; many businesses had managed to successfully pivot and master the requirements of delivering work via their ‘at-home’ workforce,  vaccine progress gave us all hope amidst lockdowns and restrictions, for many professional service businesses furlough was gone and the re-set forward was clear.

The pace with which we moved from cautious optimism to aggressive growth plans, for me, was surprising, almost as soon as March passed, the words from most medium to large-sized corporates included ‘Growth, Investment or Expansion’. 

Perhaps, as we approach the end of 2021, it is justifiable to review the year and make comparisons of now, to how things were ‘pre-Covid’.  I have been reviewing some sources and found some interesting statistics in relation to the Northern Ireland region;

November 2021 versus November 2020, source NISRA Labour Force Survey December 14th 2021.

  • Employee numbers on payroll is up 4.9% year on year,
  • PAYE earnings listed as increasing by 3.8%,
  • 779,490 jobs in the local economy, the first annual increase since June 2020,
  • Service sector jobs are up by 7,630 in the last year,
  • Manufacturing jobs are up by 2,300 in the same period,
  • Private sector jobs are up 3,680 and public sector jobs are up by 4,300 (this is after a sustained period of job losses and zero growth since 2015).
  • Weekly hours worked are up 5.2% annually,
  • November 2021, Northern Ireland unemployment rate is 3.6% and employment rate is 70.4%

Some other interesting statistics;

  • Across the UK, 1.2M jobs are listed as available.  November 2021 saw a monthly increase of 434k (including seasonal requirements), source – Office of National Statistics.
  • EMSI states that 3.51M job advertisements are listed at present for the UK, this is 206% more than the number in first week of March 2020.
  • NI Chamber of Commerce states in their Q3 survey results that ‘70% of manufacturers and 74% of services were trying to recruit…80% of all respondents in Q3 21 finding it difficult to get staff.’

Please be aware I am not a Statistician or an Economist, the follow assertions are strictly my own.   

We are currently experiencing demand for talent from both the private and public sector, at all levels across Northern Ireland.  And it truly is across Northern Ireland, because where the talent is based/living is now, not really a factor.    Right now, the demand for talent by far, outstrips supply and some strong trends are developing…

Price of talent – The question is not if the price of talent will rise, moreover, by how much.  Inflation is rising, demand is high and price points for junior to middle management staff (the heavy lifters) is particularly in focus.  Is it unrealistic to say a newly qualified lawyer, accountant or associated professional in tech that qualifies in 2022 could break through expected pay ceilings? No, not at all, get ready for the £40k newly qualified accountant, the £35k newly qualified solicitor and more…  

Availability of talent – This is the really pressurised aspect of the local labour market.  In Northern Ireland our talent pool is now, not exclusively available to Northern Ireland-based organisations to appoint from.  Increasingly, we are seeing organisations from the other parts of the UK, appoint talented professionals that are based in Northern Ireland.  It is NOT JUST IT FIRMS that have adopted this practice! We have Lawyers, Technologists, Analysts, Accountants and more, working for UK firms wherein they are not required to commute to the UK mainland based office.

Re-training/Re-skilling – Businesses with a more medium-term view are starting to think about ways to identify and engage potential hires from associated sectors.  A good example is the transfer of Call Centre staff into IT support or finance support roles.  Established skillsets can be built upon and allow employers to add new talent to entry level positions. If you need to appoint more that 1 or 2 for a department, this is definitely something to think about.

Brexit – Has meant a significant reduction in the availability of European relocators to Northern Ireland, and the exit of a number of those previously settled.  Just as demand for talent was hitting equilibrium, we began to lost a key supply component.  The less the talent supply we have, the more price creeps up.  All areas are effected.   

Digital first appointments – as mentioned previously, one of the outputs of the pandemic has been working from home.  It has been established and it is working.  In a Northern Ireland context, we are seeing employers reach in to our talent pool, but how many local employers are offering this ‘Digital first’ appointment model.  One which leans to the requirements of the talent and not the employer?

There is so much going on and many more questions to ponder like:

  • What is the future of Foreign Direct Investment in NI?
  • How does the region become attractive to relocators/returners?
  • Will we see location agnostic appointments become more common than ‘at office’?

2022 is going to be the most interesting year…


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