Posted on Monday 2 December 2019 by Ulster Business

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One of the many interesting insights to come out of this year’s Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends report was the strong view that employees are no longer happy to just accept seemingly arbitrary decisions from their employers about pay rises, writes John Moore managing director of Hays NI

Our survey found that salaries in Northern Ireland are generally increasing at a faster rate than the UK average (2.4% vs 1.8%) due to competition for talent, though salary rates for most roles in NI remain lower than in other parts of the country.

In Northern Ireland, 76% of employers said they had increased salaries in the past year and 79% said they expect to hire more staff in the year ahead. But four out of five of the organisations we surveyed said they had experienced some sort of skills shortage in the past year and were finding it hard to recruit people of the right quality.

While that should be good news for those employees with those in demand skills, the survey shows that among people who are looking for jobs or considering a career move, the issue of transparency is really important.

Nearly 80% of employees said they want their organisation to be more transparent about pay levels and how pay rises or bonuses are awarded. Demonstrating the disconnect, more than 40% of all organisations acknowledged they weren’t consistently transparent with all employees about how salaries are set. It’s a situation that can lead to suspicion and damage morale in a workforce and could in turn have an impact on both retention and hiring.

Of those we surveyed in NI 40% were dissatisfied with their salary, mostly because they felt it didn’t reflect their individual performance. Just 20% of employees received a performance related bonus and only 11% of those who asked for a pay rise were successful in getting one.

Employees can’t always expect a pay rise or bonus, but if there is no clarity over why some people are receiving them and others are not, then it’s likely to create discord. Perceived gender pay gaps in particular are very much in the spotlight and have the potential to impact retention if employers aren’t up front about them and able to demonstrate that they are addressing the imbalances, which unfortunately still persist in many industries.

Of course, as I’ve said in this column before, it’s not all about money. While 57% of those surveyed would be tempted to change jobs due to the salary and benefits package on offer, candidates again reported it’s a complex decision. Career progression is the second most common reason people would move and a third of employees said work life balance was the most important factor in choosing new roles.

This confirms regular reports from employers that more candidates are choosing not to move beyond initial enquiries or withdrawing from recruitment processes when they don’t feel a role fully meets their expectations. Younger candidates in particular are confident they have options and want to know an organisation lines up with their own values.

This has all led to skills gaps that are affecting productivity and project delivery. Four out of five employers we spoke to said they’d experienced a skills shortage and almost the same amount said they’d found it hard to recruit permanent staff in the last year

The survey clearly shows there is competition for the best talent in a number of sectors, especially for some specific roles in technology and finance. That has driven up overall salary levels and in 2020 employers will need to better articulate what differentiates them from their competition to have a chance of recruiting these in demand people.

In a competitive market, being clear on pay and showing that you are addressing pay gaps will be an important factor in the success of your recruitment plans.

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