Skills shortages help drive up salaries in north by 2 per cent, survey finds

Some 95 per cent of employers in Northern Ireland say they have experienced some form of skills shortage in the last year

A SHORTAGE of skills in certain sectors has contributed to salaries being forced up in Northern Ireland by two per cent in the past year, according to a study by recruiting experts Hays.

And employers have been urged to focus on career progression and work life balance to attract the next batch of top talent.

The annual Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2019 guide found that while business sentiment has been dented by the lack of a functioning Executive at Stormont and ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, 69 per cent of companies in the north expect business activity to rise in 2019, above the UK average of 61 per cent.

Among local employers, 80 per cent expect to hire additional staff in the next year, compared to a UK average of 76 per cent - the highest in five years.

But 95 per cent of employers have experienced some form of skills shortage, with more than two thirds of those surveyed saying the top recruitment challenge faced by their business is a shortage of suitable candidates.

This contributed to average salaries among the Northern Ireland employers surveyed rising by 2 per cent in the past year, slightly higher than the UK average (1.9 per cent).

The survey is based on responses from 23,000 employers and professionals in a range of industries, including almost 650 in Northern Ireland.

More than half of local employers (53 per cent) said the skills gap was negatively affecting productivity and over a third (36 per cent) believed that the issue was having a real impact on their ability to deliver projects.

John Moore, managing director of Hays in Northern Ireland, said that employers need to be intensely critical of their employer brand and what differentiates them from their competition, particularly when recruiting for roles in sectors such as technology, finance and construction.

“Employers here told us they are pressing ahead with business plans and are generally optimistic about the wider economic climate for the next two to five years. Recruitment expectations are at their highest levels for five years, for both temporary and permanent roles.

“Increased competition for talent coupled with skills shortages has helped support above UK-average salary growth in Northern Ireland. While that is positive for those seeking new employment it also has downsides, including negative impacts on productivity, staff morale and the ability to deliver projects.

“Given the intense competition and, at times, unrealistic salary requirements from candidates, it's never been more important for employers to understand the complex factors that influence employee movement.

"Salary is still a top consideration, but candidates are now influenced by other benefits, such as life balance and career progression opportunities. But only 17 per cent of employers surveyed saw work life balance as a priority, compared with 30 per cent of employees.”

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