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‘War for talent’: 70% of Aussies will score pay rise this year

A man handing out Australian dollar bills. A picture that describes buying, paying, handing out money, or showing money.
(Source: Getty)

Seven in 10 Australian employees can expect a pay rise this year, with new data revealing that a majority of workplaces plan to award salary increases.

Recruitment firm Robert Half’s Salary Guide 2021 report surveyed 300 hiring managers across Australia and found that 70 per cent of organisations plan to go ahead with wage rises in 2021.

And while national wage growth is expected to hover around 1.5 per cent this year, the survey indicated that companies intending to raise wages will increase them by an average of 6 per cent.

There’s good news for those looking for a new job, too: 70 per cent of hiring managers also said they’re willing to increase salary offerings to job candidates in order to secure top talent.

In fact, hanging onto crucial employees has become a priority for businesses, with more than four in five (82 per cent) of businesses admitting losing talent was a concern.

Robert Half director Nicole Gorton told Yahoo Finance that positive signs of growth in the economy were heating up the employment market.

In the three months to March this year, Australian GDP rose by 3.1 per cent, which was preceded by a 3.3 per cent rise in the December quarter.

Consumer sentiment is also up three months in a row, according to ANZ-Roy Morgan’s weekly polls, and business confidence is also more than 15 per cent higher than February 2020. SEEK job ads were also up by 12.4 per cent year-on-year in February, with every single state and territory seeing year-on-year job ad growth for the first time since the pandemic.

Projects that had been shelved during COVID-19 are now back on the agenda, with businesses realising they have to both retain talent and make hires in order to move these projects forward.

“What that means, all that these projects that were shelved [during the pandemic], such as hybrid working, business transformation, cyber security projects … artificial intelligence, data analytics … We need to hire,” Gorton told Yahoo Finance.

“As they’ve gone to hire – everybody’s gone to hire.

“So they’re now thinking, we need to retain our talent, offer increased salaries to what we’ve done historically, because there is now a war for talent, a talent deficit in certain areas.”

Employment activity across all industries is picking up, even those that have been hardest-hit by the pandemic, such as the travel industry. The property, health, online education, wellness and recruiting industries were named by Gorton as sectors that were most aggressively hiring at the moment.

How can workers negotiate a pay rise?

Companies have had to think more “laterally” about how to hire and retain talent, Gorton said, with higher salaries just one of the perks offered to staff.

According to the Salary Guide 2021, nearly 2 in 3 (64 per cent) of companies added new employee benefits as a result of COVID-19.

The most popular benefit was wellness programs (59 per cent), with this encompassing virtual counselling, employee financial education, online gym sessions, and more.

Other popular benefits were mental health resources or assistance (49 per cent); extra paid leave (46 per cent); home office equipment allowances (35 per cent); and childcare assistance based outside the office (25 per cent).

This year, companies also plan to offer flexible work hours (32 per cent) and health insurance (29 per cent).

So if you’re seeking to secure a pay rise, it’s important to consider what benefits other than remuneration are desirable to you, said Gorton.

“What's important to the person? From hybrid to remote working… what else can they access as it relates to gym memberships, maternity or paternity leave… How does that talk to the individual? What else does the company have on offer?” she said.

Another way employees can negotiate with their organisation is through asking for a career plan. Gorton said the companies that did well on retaining staff prioritised engagement levels and worked with individuals on their future goals.

Gorton said organisations should ask: “Where is that career headed? What can we do to support you in achieving your potential?”

This could come in the form of additional training, upskilling, or additional education, whether internal or external. It could also mean managers give the individual stretch projects before they’re ready, to give them more exposure, Gorton added.

“Once you include people in where business is going, what their involvement is in that; you get an increased engagement. That alongside salary, it all talks to each other,” she said.

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