2020 was a year of profound change for employers and their staff and 2021 will be no different, according to a new Morgan McKinley report. Once thing is certain: remote working is here for the foreseeable future.

Salaries are likely to remain flat throughout 2021 on average, with some salary increases of up to 5pc for in-demand and emerging niche skill sets, according to the latest Morgan McKinley Irish Salary Guide.

Overall, in 2020, the market for professional talent was split 45% permanent and 55% temporary and this mix is expected to continue throughout the first half of 2021.

“Both employers and employees are prepared for remote working to remain in place for 2021, which actually transforms the recruitment market because location is no longer as big a factor in the decision-making process”

The permanent market continues to hold strong with consistent demand in the Banking, Financial Services, eCommerce, retail and FMCG sectors. Contract hiring in the technology space is anticipated to be most prevalent in large scale tech businesses and government bodies.

There is still a very strong demand for talent in niche and emerging disciplines. Companies remain under pressure to attract qualified professionals with skills from outside of Ireland. This is most prevalent in the IT, Data Analytics, Science, Financial Services, and Engineering disciplines.

An unforgettable year

“2020 was a year of massive change for both employers and employees and it looks like 2021 will be no different,” said Ger Fitzgerald, CEO of Morgan McKinley.

“From our survey results, we can see that employers are looking to adapt and stay competitive by hiring for new skills and to also retain their current employees by offering pay rises when appropriate. It looks like employees are a little more cautious of the potential of the hiring market and pay rises, when in fact it looks like there will be great opportunities for them through upskilling and applying for new roles either internally or externally.”

“In terms of looking for more flexible working options, there appears to be a common need between a significant portion of employers and employees, so contracting will be a key driver of recruitment in 2021.”

“Finally, both employers and employees are prepared for remote working to remain in place for 2021, which actually transforms the recruitment market because location is no longer as big a factor in the decision-making process for new roles.”

A perfect storm: Covid-19 and Brexit

Tracy Keevans, global FDI director at Morgan McKinley, said Covid-19 has brought unprecedented changes and challenges.

“Despite the long lead-in time to Brexit, the market is showing that a lot of businesses adopted a wait and see approach that meant they were not prepared”

She said many companies around the country have risen to the occasion, acting swiftly to safeguard employees and migrate to a new way of working that even the most extreme business-continuity plans hadn’t envisioned. Employers are now questioning long-held assumptions about how work should be done and the role of the office.

The year has seen a large cohort of urban based talent relocating home or to regional locations during the pandemic and for some this has become a permanent move – assisted by plans to introduce legislation promoting the rights of employees to request remote working as well as the right to disconnect. The pandemic has also accelerated plans of the Irish diaspora to return home to be close to family and friends bringing with them valuable international experience to the local market.

In light of these changing circumstances, employers are scrambling to adapt their policies on working location. HR and business leaders are now considering whether they will adjust pay of employees in line with their lower cost of living locations or maintain the current payrates, which could have a knock-on inflationary effect on regional salaries for related positions. But the relationship between pay and location is complex.

Keevans said that as the impact of the pandemic continues to be felt and more companies decide to allow long-term remote work, this approach may become more common.

“If 2020 was a year of challenges for the Irish employment market with a global pandemic, looming Brexit, as well as a sharp increasing unemployment rate, then 2021 will be a year of resilience as an anticipated global vaccine roll-out seeks to be the shot in the arm the economy needs to activate its road to a full recovery.

“Brexit combined with Covid-19 has created a perfect storm in the demand for talent in the supply chain and procurement disciplines. Covid-19 created a sharp shock to global supply chains resulting in complete restructures to mitigate against over-reliance on a limited number of suppliers and countries of origin. As a result, the life sciences sectors as well as the food sector continued to hire extensively in this space and this is expected to continue through 2021, particularly for senior supply chain talent with global experience. There are also expectations of continued growth in demand for contingent labour particularly in pharma manufacturing, food production and warehousing.”

Keevans said that the biggest shortage of talent exists across trade and customs where the market could not meet the demand fully in the latter part of 2020 having significant impacts on well established businesses across e-commerce and distribution.

“Despite the long lead-in time to Brexit, the market is showing that a lot of businesses adopted a wait and see approach that meant they were not prepared. The intense demand for all types of customs and trade related talent includes Customs Agents, Clearance Agents, Customs Brokers, Shipping and Customs Managers, Trade and Customs Tax Specialists, Customs Compliance specialists etc. and this will continue with pace throughout 2021 and we expect to see salary inflation for talent in this space,” Keevans said.

Main image at top: Tracy Keevans, global FDI director at Morgan McKinley

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 22 January 2021

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