Employees Have Edge in Today's Job Market

By Katherine Spencer Lee

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If you’re planning to hire IT staff soon, the big question as you begin the process is just how much leverage you have in the current market.

Will it take a long time to locate the candidates your business needs, or will you be overwhelmed with resumes? What steps will you need to take to attract the best applicants? In which direction are salaries headed?

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To help find the answers, Robert Half International recently partnered with CareerBuilder.com, the online job site, to compare and contrast the perspectives of hiring managers and workers. More than 1,000 hiring managers and 3,000 workers were polled to determine which group has more influence in today’s employment market. The results were compiled in the Employment Dynamics and Growth Expectations (EDGE) Report.

While employers may have had the upper hand earlier in the decade, the EDGE Report shows the tide has now shifted. Fifty-five percent of hiring managers said it was difficult to recruit qualified staff 12 months ago, and 34% reported that it is even more challenging now. The vast majority (82%) believe it will be just as hard, if not more so, to hire skilled talent in the year ahead.

According to the report, staff-level employees are the most difficult to bring on board. This finding is supported by results of the Robert Half Technology Hiring Index and Skills Report for the first quarter of 2007, which revealed that individuals with Microsoft Windows administration (Server 2000/2003), network administration (Cisco, Nortel) or database management (Oracle, SQL Server, DB2) skills are in short supply.

In fact, competition for candidates with these qualifications is so intense job seekers often receive multiple employment offers, as well as counteroffers to stay with their current firms.

How are companies responding? To minimize the chances of losing existing staff and increase the odds of securing potential applicants, the most successful firms are recognizing the need to position themselves as employers of choice.

Many organizations are using compensation as a tool to achieve this goal. In 2006, 38% of hiring managers said they would increase salary levels for job offers in the next 12 months, up from 33% in 2005. Twenty percent said they’ve raised pay for current employees.

A growing number of businesses also have instituted new policies and programs to increase staff retention rates. Measures they are taking to keep their best employees, including allowing flexible work schedules, providing bonuses, offering more generous benefits packages and improving the office environment.

Results from the EDGE Report indicate concerns about employee turnover are not unfounded. Nearly half of the workers polled (44%) said it was likely they would pursue a new position in the next three years.

Employees Remain Cautious

Another interesting finding of the EDGE Report is many employees don’t yet have a sense of their leverage in the market. Only 15% of those polled thinking finding a job is easier today than it was 12 months ago. In addition, only 29% of employees are currently more likely to negotiate a better compensation package with a new employer than they were 12 months ago.

The disconnect between workers’ and employers’ perceptions of the job environment is almost certain to narrow, and the market for top talent is expected to remain competitive in the foreseeable future.

Survey data, combined with input from Robert Half Technology staffing and recruiting professionals across the country, already suggest that candidates are gradually realizing the advantage they have and leveraging it to secure better job opportunities.

Organizations that take steps to improve their recruitment and retention efforts will find themselves better prepared for the staffing challenges ahead and able to secure today’s top talent.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals for initiatives ranging from e-business development and multi-platform systems integration to network engineering and technical support. Robert Half Technology has more than 100 locations in the North America and Europe, and offers online job search services at www.roberthalftechnology.com.