It’s a buyer’s market: skilled employees now dictate terms of employment

Hiring for Success
spoke to Simon Maimane, lead consultant for the Civils and Engineering sector at PCS, to get a sense of what is happening in the recruitment market. Simon says the market has changed radically since 2007-8, when employers dictated salaries and terms of employment. Now it is a buyer’s market, especially for skilled employees, who are able to dictate their own terms.

Q:   Are there signs of improvement in recruitment generally?

Simon: Yes. A lot of companies are looking for skilled staff, mainly because of services projects that have been awarded.

Q:  What about the Civils and Engineering sector? How is this performing?

Simon: It’s been busy, especially the services sector (roads, water and sewerage).

Q: Where is demand for recruitment coming from, and what in your opinion is driving this?

Simon: Historically, companies require specialists for new projects or because they have lost staff to competitors, for example. We are seeing strong demand from companies that are expanding and taking on projects that they are not necessarily manned to cope with. There is also a lot of recruitment demand from medium-sized companies, many of which have been successful in securing projects and tenders.

Q:  Do you have any advice for client companies?

Simon: Yes, the recruitment market of today is drastically changed from that of 2007 and 2008, when companies could take on staff and dictate salaries and conditions. This is no longer the case. We find more and more that it is the candidates who can afford to dictate salaries and conditions, so in this sense it is a “a candidates market.” This creates problems for both the client and recruitment companies. We have to work harder to find specialist talent, and when it comes to interviewing, we dig a lot deeper to find out why the candidate wants to move. This way we are able to weed out those who are just chasing a bigger buck. When we analyse what motivates people in life, money is not actually the top priority. Good candidates want to make a difference in their field, so this is actually a higher level motivation than money. We have also found that those who chase money seldom produce their imagined value for the new employer and are also far more likely to hop to another company on a whim. We have found that with the current economic scene, the environment has become quite “tooth and claw” for salaried employees, and there is an element of job hopping out of desperation to make more money.

We have a golden rule at PCS: take on staff who are there to work, not staff who are there to get paid.

Q:  Any advice for candidates?

Simon: People want to survive well. It’s probably more difficult to survive today this than it was in the past, but it is important to keep in mind – when building a career – that long-term survival is not satisfied by chasing immediate rewards. Therefore, I would advise candidates to inspect closely those “dangling carrots” which promise an immediate reward because the repercussions of such decisions can carry a negative impact on one’s career for a very long time.

Now there is nothing wrong with moving to a new company. People do so every day for a number of very good reasons, but when you are in a good firm which pays you on time, where you can gain invaluable experience and become more competent at what you do, it is often wiser to stay where you are. Our experience is that those candidate who have become experts in their fields are the ones who ultimately reap the rewards of the high–bar salary. Those whose experience is less specialised tend to be much harder to place.

Your safest bet is to be a specialist. The world has a tremendous need for them.