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2016: Will The New Year See More Skills Shortages?

By Simon on

I have recruited for the agency and in-house sectors for the best part of 20 years. I’ve witnessed many changes and behavioural patterns in how companies recruit and people seek new careers. As a business, we have always had some inkling as to how the jobs market will pan out: whether it will be a candidate’s or client’s market, or whether certain sectors will prosper or find it tough to attract talented individuals. What will happen in 2016?

Problems With Predictions

Over the last two or three years, it has become even more difficult to predict these things. There are no strong patterns of behaviour to analyse. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the digitalisation of roles is having a huge impact. And growth of in-house marketing departments in certain sectors is seeing more people move in-house and leave behind agency life.

Considering that, in 2015, the Content Marketing Institute found that 88% of B2B organisations are using content marketing, you can bet your bottom dollar that in 2016 there will be even more openings for talented content writers with wide-ranging digital know-how. Over 40,000 digital roles were advertised in the UK in 2015. Since Manchester is one of the main cities outside of London with the highest volume of digital employment, we would have thought that lots of companies would have been able to fill their endless supply of jobs. Surprisingly, this is not the case, and I suspect this will only get worse over the next year or so.

Emerging Disciplines

We’ll most likely see the amalgamation of many roles because there is so much overlap between disciplines. Eighteen months ago, a Content Writer would typically write online material. They’re now expected to produce copy for other elements such as social media, apps, email marketing, advertorials and white papers, all with an SEO head on. So it’s no surprise these roles are becoming harder to fill. And, considering the advance of mobile video marketing, that will be another string they will need to add to their bow. Or will that be swallowed up by account managers or PR?

The changing and evolving nature of PR will also see roles change. Particularly at management level, where digital and social experience may outweigh some of the more tried and tested traits such as strong writing, solid pitching skills, and strategic know-how. This is part of the reason why we’ve seen more candidates switch to a client-side environment. The expectations of an employee’s skills are more realistic and the hours are not as severe. And since we’ve taken on over 40% more client-side opportunities in the last quarter, there is evidence this trend will continue. The only thing that may stop this flow is salary. The agency sectors in the Midlands and North West have seriously upped the ante over the last year, and paid above average salaries at all levels.

Skills Shortage

Social recruiting has become more prevalent and LinkedIn is making candidates more accessible to clients and recruiters alike. But it has still not solved this chronic skills shortage. I don’t think we have ever taken on so many client-side and agency based PR and digital roles. Or seen so many being left open for long periods.

We envisage the agency and in-house jobs market will continue to grow, but at what rate is anyone’s guess. The problem will still be the lack of experienced people that can have an immediate effect on a company’s bottom line. Salary and effective recruitment strategies will still be a key issue in attracting the right people. Companies that can offer flexibility and softer benefits will have the upper hand. Skilled and credible candidates will have more options but will only move if the offer is structured to their needs. This will make it harder for employers to attract and retain. Freelance operatives may solve a few company’s problems but this won’t solve long terms issues. And businesses, niche recruiters, and universities will need to be more collaborative to ensure candidates will the right skill-sets are available over the next two to three years.

Changes In Salaries and Required Experience

It’s clear that 2015 has been the year of the pay rise. And about time too, considering wage increases have lagged behind price rises for the last seven years. Due to this pressure on companies and agencies, there has been even more evidence of skill shortages pushing up salaries. But we do see this coming to a slight halt. Clever companies will be more pragmatic, and may focus on less commercially experienced candidates who can be developed for long-term growth. Start-ups and small to medium sized companies will be best placed to exploit this segment of the market. Their approach to recruitment can be more flexible and fluid.

We may see some companies change their approach, and having a degree may not be so vital. EY have removed academic qualifications from their entry criteria for their 2016 graduate, undergraduate and school leaver programmes. Students will no longer need a minimum of 3 Bs at A-Level and a 2:1 degree classification to apply. Instead, EY will use a new and enhanced suite of online ‘strengths’ assessments and numerical tests to assess the potential of applicants for 2016.  It’s clear they are modernising the workplace, challenging traditional thinking and ways of doing things.

I’m certain other companies will follow suit and transform their recruitment process. This will definitely open up opportunities for talented individuals regardless of their background. I’ve always believed that attitude, drive, and a sound work ethic are more vital than what degree you have. And, before I receive lots of online grief, this isn’t the case in all people.

What’s In Store for 2016?

Without the benefit of extrasensory perception, I still feel it will be more the same in 2016. Even if employers do change their hiring ethos and candidates are more open to moving, we still envisage even more competition for the scarcest talent. And we expect to see salaries rising in the first quarter but balance out by the middle of the year.

It’s probably best to put the dust cover back on the crystal ball. We’ll let 2016 unfold without trying to make any bold predictions!