How employee and jobseeker expectations have changed in the current job market

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For Australian job hunters, things are looking pretty good (even if it may not feel that way!) But for employers, the current market is much more challenging.

In July 2021, the unemployment rate decreased to 4.6% and the number of employed people rose by 2,200 to reach a total of 13,156,400. Most significantly, there are currently 84,300 fewer unemployed Australians than there were in March 2020.

The bad news for employers is that it’s becoming increasingly challenging to recruit top talent. Long gone are the days when a hiring organisation could post details about a job opening online and then watch as dozens of applications from qualified candidates flooded in.

According to SEEK’s June 2021 Employment Report, applications per job ad remain subdued and markedly lower compared to historical trends. With staffing challenges and skills shortages reported in almost every sector, and demand for new employees far outstripping supply, hiring organisations will need to fight hard to secure the best workers. Industries experiencing skyrocketing demand include employment services, digital, marketing and communications, health, safety and environment.

If your company wants to attract, recruit, onboard, and retain top talent, you will need to develop an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that meets the current needs and expectations of your target demographic and then find innovative ways to communicate with prospective candidates.

Elmo Software's latest Employee Sentiment Index outlines the top factors that employees are currently prioritising when considering moving to a new job.

Here’s how employers can address what employees are looking for and fine-tune their EVP:

1. Remuneration

One of the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that employees have a better understanding of what they want and are in a stronger position to negotiate over salaries.

Most crucially, workers who feel that they aren’t being fairly compensated in their role will be the first to leave.

If you want to hold on to your most valued employees and attract new talent, make sure you’re paying competitive salaries and offering generous benefits packages.

After nearly 10 years of flat or negative wages growth (relative to RBA inflation data), we are seeing evidence of upward pressure in salaries, particularly driven by demand for the best talent in functions such as sales with businesses turning to us for more up to date data in order to attract top performers.

ABS forecasts wages growth to pick up to 2.25% by mid-2023, having already shown a 1.4% increase in the private sector in the year to March 2021.

2. Stability

Following the disruption of the past 18 months, employees crave security and stability from their employer. Your existing employees will appreciate communication, transparency, and optimism from your leadership team, while job applicants will want to know how you weathered the COVID-19 storm and your long-term business plans and objectives.

Has there been a major shake-up of your business structure in recent months, how many employees were made redundant following the pandemic’s outbreak, and what steps are you taking to mitigate risk and secure future success?

Reassuring prospective candidates is key, but don’t make false or unrealistic promises.

3. Flexible working

Employees have grown accustomed to the freedoms that come with flexible and remote working.

However, while 72% of Australian businesses claim to provide flexible working options, just 53% of the workforce believe these opportunities are actually available to them. If you’re going to tout flexible working as one of the benefits of working for your organisation, make sure you’re following through on your promises. Employees want the option to work remotely when it suits them, choose their office hours, and manage their own schedules.

By positioning yourself as an employer that truly embraces flexible working, you will gain access to a much larger, and more diverse, talent pool. For example, a job listing for a remote role will result in 20% more geographical diversity among applicants, and people from marginalised groups may face fewer barriers to applying.

4. Culture

You will find it very difficult to effectively communicate your workplace’s culture to prospective employees if you can’t clearly define your company’s values and ethics.

Take time to consider your core values, the attributes you rate most highly in your employees, the initiatives you’ve implemented to build a diverse and inclusive culture, and the work you’re doing to support your local community.

Once you’ve figured out your standpoint, make sure you’re shouting about all the great stuff you’re doing via creative job ads, your company website, at careers fairs, and during the recruitment process to attract talent that both shares and appreciates your values. Culture and inclusive leadership have never been more important.

5. Commuting

The shift to remote working meant saving both time and money on long, tedious, and expensive commutes. If you are expecting employees to return to the office, even on a part-time basis, be very wary that many have grown resentful about their journeys to get there. Some feel as though their time spent commuting should count as part of the working day while others want their employer to pay for their travel expenses.

It’s a big ask and not a change that is likely to be adopted by the majority of employers any time soon. However, if you want to win over your existing workforce and prospective candidates, this is an area where you can make a big difference to employee wellbeing. Consider initiatives such as subsidising the cost of public transport or allowing employees to arrive and leave the office outside of rush hour.

6. Career development and professional learning opportunities

Employees crave career progression as much as they crave security and stability. You can bet that prospective candidates will want to know what opportunities await them should they accept a role at your company. If your organisation has formalised the process of offering promotions and pay rises, that’s great, because your employees know exactly where they stand and when they can expect to progress.

If not, find other ways to reassure your candidates that there is potential for growth, such as funding training programs or additional qualifications.

7. Reputation of organisation

Building a good corporate reputation is vital when it comes to attracting top talent.

Increasingly, applicants will scrutinise your company’s actions to decide whether they want to work for you. But beware, a tokenistic rainbow logo during Pride month or a Tweet of solidarity on International Women’s Day simply won’t cut it. You’ll need to practice what you preach and provide the evidence if you want to earn the respect of your employees and prospective candidates

8. Well-being

Four in 10 Australian employees don’t feel as though their employer offers benefits or programs that are helping to support their wellbeing and mental health. As many as 80% say they feel stressed and 50% are more stressed now than they were before the outbreak of COVID-19.

It’s no surprise that the mental health of employees has suffered after what has been a tumultuous and often distressing time. Could your organisation be doing more to demonstrate compassion and understanding towards your workers? Employees need to feel as though they can express how they’re feeling and that, above all else, that their mental health matters.

9. Diversity at a leadership level

People from marginalised groups want to work for organisations where they will receive support, understanding, and opportunities. Without access to mentors and leaders who share their experiences, it’s hard to trust that they will be able to advance their careers, let alone feel comfortable in the workplace.

Not only do prospective candidates want to know what you’re doing to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, but they want to actually see evidence of it in practice. If your senior leadership team is void of diversity, you run the risk of discouraging and alienating diverse candidates.

10. Online employee reviews

study from CareerArc found that 55 percent of job seekers would abandon a job application if they read negative employee reviews online. Today, there is a whole host of sites where employees, or former employees, can review your organisation, which means bad feedback is almost inevitable.

There’s nothing you can (or should) do to stop this, but what you can do is respond to negative reviews positively and constructively.

Firstly, have a look at what employees are saying about your organisation online on websites such as Glassdoor. If several workers are criticising your company for the same reason, it’s a problem worth taking seriously.

Secondly, be rigorous when it comes to conducting exit interviews so you can quickly identify and resolve issues.

Finally, take control of the narrative by encouraging existing (and happy) employees to leave reviews, or consider incorporating their testimonials to your company website and job ads.

Speak to one of our specialist recruitment consultants for more advice or send us a job vacancy to fill.

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