Australian bosses fear rising salary expectations, despite positive hiring outlook

Australian business leaders are showing strong confidence in their business growth prospects for 2022 in spite of challenging hiring conditions.

  • 71% of Australian business leaders are more confident about their growth prospects in 2022 compared to 2021
  • 82% plan to hire permanent employees in 2022
  • 54% believe finding qualified employees in 2022 will be more challenging than pre-pandemic conditions
  • Meeting candidates’ salary expectations (39%), reskilling/upskilling existing employees (36%), and finding candidates who possess the right technical skills (36%) are considered the biggest hiring challenges of 2022.

Sydney, 19 January 2022 – Australian business leaders are showing strong confidence in their business growth prospects for 2022 in spite of challenging hiring conditions. The latest independent C-suite research by specialised talent solutions provider Robert Half indicates that almost three-out-of-four (71%) Australian business leaders are more confident about their growth prospects compared to 2021.

While these growth ambitions are reflected in a positive hiring forecast for permanent employees, the severe skills shortage that plagued Australia’s labour market recovery in 2021 is continuing to frame business leaders’ talent management agendas for the coming year. As employers fight to recruit in a candidate-led market, attracting technically skilled talent and meeting the rising salary expectations of jobseekers who have found themselves with stronger bargaining power are considered the top hiring priorities for the year ahead.

Business confidence feeding sustained hiring activity

The strength of Australia’s economic recovery and the emergence of a globally competitive tech sector, which now represents Australia’s third largest economic contributor behind mining and finance , has created a fertile climate for Australian businesses to pursue ambitious recovery and growth agendas.

Of the 71% of Australian business leaders who feel somewhat to very confident about their growth prospects compared to 2021, expanding business opportunities (63%), a better economic situation (61%) and successful restructuring (55%) are cited as the top influences on increasing growth prospects in 2022.

Building on this confidence, more than four in five businesses (82%) are planning to hire permanent employees in 2022, with 44% of Australian employers planning to maintain headcounts and 38% of business leaders planning to expand their workforces by actively adding new positions. Conversely, just little over one in 10 (13%) Australian companies intend to freeze headcounts entirely and an even smaller number (5%) plan to reduce workforce numbers. Hiring intentions for tech roles are especially high with 87% of Australian CIOs planning to hire permanent technology staff in 2022.

2022 promises to be a strong year for Australia’s labour market as businesses translate short-term recovery efforts into sustained growth opportunities. Despite demand for new talent to fulfill these growth strategies, skills shortages will continue to frame talent management agendas. Even with the gradual return of international migration this year, the shortfall of skilled talent entering the market over the past two years will take at least the same amount of time to recover, if not more. This reaffirms the need for Australian businesses to shore up their attraction and retention strategies to strengthen their domestic talent supply, as well as investing in skills development to address skills gaps over the long-term,” says Nicole Gorton, Director Robert Half in announcing Robert Half’s latest survey results.

Salary expectations and bridging talent gaps pose the biggest hiring concerns

2021 represented one of the most challenging hiring markets for Australian businesses, with mounting demand for technical skills and reduced flow of foreign talent contributing to a severe skills deficit in the market. Despite the gradual re-opening of international borders, more than half (54%) of Australian business leaders believe that finding qualified employees in 2022 will be more challenging than pre-pandemic conditions, and this goes up to 63% amongst CIOs.

The fierce competition for talent has put jobseekers in the driver’s seat, and they’re leveraging their bargaining power to command better remuneration and benefit packages. When asked about their biggest hiring challenge in 2022, almost four in 10 (39%) Australian business leaders identify meeting candidates’ salary expectations to be their main challenge, closely followed by reskilling/upskilling existing employees (36%) and finding candidates who possess the right technical skills (36%).

Competition for talent is strong, and professionals with in-demand skills are aware of the hiring market challenges and the bargaining power this gives them – particularly with regards to salary. Companies are increasingly turning to poaching talent from the competition to tap into a broader talent pool and many are receiving multiple job offers with generous salary increases, bespoke benefit packages, and title changes,” says Gorton.

“With more opportunities and enticing packages on offer, employers will need to benchmark their salaries to maintain their remuneration at or above market rates or they risk losing their preferred candidates to competing offers – particularly for select roles that can adapt business operations or drive revenue-generating initiatives. This primarily includes technology roles in data management, software development, and cyber-security as well as financial accountants and financial analysis roles within finance. To assist with mounting hiring and talent management pressures, HR business partners and talent acquisition managers are also in high demand.”

“Alongside remuneration, sign-on bonuses, opportunities for advancement and concrete efforts to support employee work-life balance through hybrid working will also distinguish employers of choice in the war for talent this year,” concludes Gorton.