Special Australian Report:

The Demand for Skilled Talent

2021: Mid-year employer and worker sentiment snapshot

  • More than three-in-four (77%) Australian business leaders are more confident in their growth prospects in 2021 compared to last year
  • Having difficulty finding sufficient candidates for open roles and retaining top performers are employers' biggest staffing concerns in Australia for 2021, with four-in-five (82%) business leaders concerned about retaining top employees
  • Remote/hybrid work availability remains strong, with Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Newcastle and Lake Macquarie offering the most remote roles
  • Critical-thinking skills, digital and data capabilities, adaptability, and strategic thinking top the list of in-demand worker skills for 2021 in Australia

National hiring trends and in-demand positions

Top 5 industries currently hiring

1. Healthcare, hospitals and social assistance

2. Retail

3. Financial services

4. Information technology

5. Non-profit

Top 5 priority permanent hires for 2021

Top 5 CIOs


1. Helpdesk Support Officer

2. Systems Engineer

3. Security Engineer

4. Cloud Engineer

5. Developer

Top 5 CFOs

For CFOs

1. Financial Accountant

2. Financial Planning & Analysis Manager

3. Financial Analyst

4. Financial Manager

5. Financial Controller 

Top 5 General Managers

For general hiring managers

1. Customer Service Officer

2. Administrative Assistant/Coordinator

3. Facilities Coordinator

4. Operations Manager

5. HR Manager

Top 5 priority contract hires for 2021

Top 5 CIOs


1. Helpdesk Support Officer

2. Systems Engineer

3. Software Developer

4. Systems Administrator

5. Desktop Engineer

Top 5 CFOs

For CFOs

1. Project Manager

2. Functional Business Analyst

3. Finance Manager/Controller

4. Commercial Financial Analyst

5. Financial Accountant

Top 5 General Managers

For general hiring managers

1. Customer Service

2. Human Resources Support

3. Administrative Support

4. Marketing Manager

5. Logistics


Very confident


Somewhat confident


Not at all confident

1. Expanding business opportunities due to pandemic

2. Stabilising economy post COVID-19

3. Pace of digitisation/adoption of new technology


Not enough skilled candidates available


Retaining top performers


Reskilling/upskilling employees to meet evolving business needs


Meeting candidates' salary expectations


More positive


Unchanged (same as last year)


More negative


Don't know


Engaged and productive


Positive attitude to work


Negative attitude to work


Burnt out/low morale


I've already returned (hybrid)


I'm 100% back in-office


Negative: Feel apprehensive about returning to the office


Positive: Looking forward to returning to the office

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The 'Anywhere Workforce': Latest remote/hybrid work trends

The 'Anywhere Workforce'
  • Hybrid workforces (a combination of working remotely and in-office) are now seen as a permanent way of working by many employers and workers alike
  • In Australia, the top 5 metropolitan areas demonstrating the most remote/hybrid work availability in the early pandemic recovery period of September 2020 - March 2021 (as a proportion of total job ads in the same period) are: (1) Melbourne; (2) Sydney; (3) Brisbane; (4) Adelaide and (5) Newcastle and Lake Macquarie
  • Accounts Payable/Receivable Managers, Office/Administrative Assistants and IT Help Desk saw the largest increase in the percentage of job postings allowing for remote work over the past twelve months, jumping by 1,924%, 708% and 471% between the pre-pandemic and early pandemic recovery periods, respectively
  • The key benefits of hybrid teams include increased agility in changeable times and creating an opportunity for better work-life balance for employees. Challenges for employers, though, include keeping on top of workloads, maintaining company culture, and assessing employee well-being
  • 47% of workers recently surveyed self-identified as a 'homesteader' (working mainly from home); 32% as an 'office dweller' (working from the office); and 15% as a 'coffee shop traveller' (preferring other locations)

In-demand skills - Technology snapshot

  • Employers are increasingly requiring applicants to demonstrate expanded and more diverse skillsets

  • The quickening rate of digital transformation across many departments combined with the expansion of remote and hybrid work practices means that the development, use, and maintenance of hardware, software and cloud-based platforms (as examples) is increasingly no longer solely the preserve of dedicated IT departments

In-demand skills

Demand for tech and digital skills has increased across specific sectors over the past 12 months (compared with five years ago), including:

For technology specialists:

DevOps (+282.8%), Software as a Service (SaaS) skills (+95.8%) and JIRA (+73.5%) have all seen a substantial uptick in demand.

For office administrators and executive secretaries:

Software as a Service skills (+45%) and Salesforce capabilities (+17.9%) have seen the greatest growth in demand amongst employers.

For finance and accounting roles:

Python (+33%) and Scrum (+2.6%) have had the biggest growth in demand, while SAP, ERP and SQL are the most requested digital skills by employers.

For marketing, advertising and communications roles:

Email marketing (Mailchimp) (+147.8%), Software as a Service (SaaS) skills (+99.7%), and social media management (+27.2%) have experienced the most growth in demand in the past five years.

  • Specialist tech and digital skills are also translating into higher salaries. Over the past three years, when compared with national salary averages, the following roles and skillsets are commanding an increase in base salary:

    • Systems Analysts with SAP skills are commanding up to 12% more in base salary
    • IT Project Managers with Scrum skills (+13%)
    • Payroll Specialists with SAP experience (+4%)
    • Financial Managers with ERP knowledge (+8%)
    • Project Managers with Prince skills (+29%)
    • Marketing Specialists with SQL skills (+19%)


Work with external service providers


Hiring additional permanent candidates


Reskilling existing employees


Hiring additional contract talent


Critical thinking


Data skills




Strategic thinking


Digital/technology/data skills


Communication skills


Planning and organising skills


Provide more hands-on training


Bring in expert consultants


Offer mentor schemes




The employer data referenced throughout this report is sourced from Robert Half-commissioned research among 300 Australian executives using an online data collection methodology conducted in November 2020. Respondents included General Managers, Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers with hiring responsibilities across small (50-249 employees), medium (250-499) and large (500+ employees) companies from private, publicly listed, and public sectors across Australia. This survey is part of an international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management, and trends in the workplace. 

Worker data cited in this report is an aggregate of results from online surveys conducted via LinkedIn by Robert Half in Australia during the period April - May 2021.

Shifts in remote work availability in Australia were aggregated and analysed over the last 12 months – spanning April '20 to March '21 and for the periods June '19 - Feb '20 (Pre-pandemic period), March '20 - Aug ’20 (pandemic height) and Sept ‘20 - March ’21 (early pandemic recovery period) - based on available online job advertisements. This analysis was undertaken by Burning Glass in May 2021.

Burning Glass undertook an analysis of the technology/software-specific skills included in all national online job descriptions across Australia during the last 12 months – spanning the period from April '20 to March '21 - looking at the change in demand for skills compared to the same period five years earlier (April '15 to March '16). Salary premiums associated with technology/software-specific skills were analysed from the last 36 months, spanning the period from March '18 to March '21.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the global, specialised talent solutions provider that helps employers find their next great hire and job seekers uncover their next opportunity.

We offer both contract and permanent placement solutions for finance and accounting, technology, marketing, administrative and customer support, and executive-level roles.

Widely recognised as a top employer and business services leader for sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion, Robert Half is also the parent company of Protiviti®, a global consulting firm that provides internal audit, risk, business and technology consulting solutions.

This report is presented in association with Burning Glass

About Burning Glass

Burning Glass Technologies delivers job market analytics that empower employers, workers, and educators to make data-driven decisions. The company’s artificial intelligence technology analyses hundreds of millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into labour market patterns. This real-time strategic intelligence offers crucial insights, such as which jobs are most in demand, the specific skills employers need, and the career directions that offer the highest potential for workers. For more information, visit burning-glass.com.

This report © 2021 Robert Half

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