The skills employers are willing to pay a premium for

Published on the 23/01/2024 | Written by Heather Wright

The skills employers are willing to pay a premium for

New year, new job as demand remains strong across A/NZ…

Project and program management and cyber security skills can command the highest salary premium according to a new survey, which shows companies are currently willing to pay significant premiums to secure the skills they need.

The Robert Half survey of 300 hiring managers, including 100 CFOs and 100 CIOs from companies across Australia, found project and program management skills can command the highest salary premium, of almost a third (31 percent) more than market rate.

“Business leaders are looking for staff who can propel innovation and swiftly adapt to changing conditions.”

But there’s a caveat – just 11 percent of employers are willing to offer that higher salary to candidates holding those skills.

Those with cyber security in their wheelhouse can command a premium of 27 percent, and slightly more employers – 15 percent – are willing to pay that higher salary.

Companies are most willing to pay big for candidates holding leadership or management expertise, revealing it to be the most in-demand skill. Candidates with those sought after skills can command 26 percent higher salaries, with 37 percent of companies willing to pay the premium.

Robert Half director Nicole Gorton says employers recognise that candidates who hold these highly sought-after skills can bring a ‘unique’ edge to their organisation and enable it to thrive in times of rapid change.

“These types of premiums and salary increase are not on offer to everyone,” she notes. “Business leaders are looking for staff who can propel innovation and swiftly adapt to changing conditions.

“They are willing to pay a salary premium because of the pivotal role the candidate will play in steering companies towards growth as well as maintaining a distinct competitive edge. Employers see the salary premiums as an investment in amplifying efficiencies, reshaping outcomes and securing a prosperous future.”

In New Zealand, Randstad says 69 percent of companies plan to expand their hiring this year, signalling a growing economy. (In Australia, Manpower says hiring intent for the IT sector remains steady with a net employment outlook of +29 percent for Q1 2024, reflecting a continued stabilisation of hiring as large tech employers continue to evaluate priority projects.)

It says while the change in government is likely to result in public spending reductions, the requirement for tech-savvy professionals in project management, transformation, engineering and general management is expected to remain buoyant.

Technology roles however remain one of the most difficult positions to fill the Randstad Outlook 2024 report notes, with 25 percent saying they’re struggling to fill tech roles.

It’s not just traditional tech roles that companies are grappling with either, with the impact of technology transformation driving the need for companies to upskill and reskill staff.

Richard Kennedy, Randstad New Zealand country director, says as technology permeates sectors it’s not just about learning the technology but adapting due to its influence.

“Jobseekers in New Zealand must proactively position themselves for success in 2024. In an era of technological disruption driven by AI, soft skills are increasingly in demand. Problem-solving, creativity, technology proficiency and relationship management skills are now as crucial as traditional technical skills,” he says.

“The emphasis is not just on understanding tech, but leveraging it to solve real-world problems. Embracing these skills will be vital for job seekers to stand out in a competitive market.”

A Capgemini global survey published last week showed talent and skills development is a key area for investment, with 57 percent of the 2,000 business leaders surveyed planning to increase investment, up from 28 percent a year ago.

Scarcity of talent with the right skills is ranked a top business risk for the next 12 to 18 months for 59 percent of organisations – up from just 35 percent of organisations last year.

“Our multiple research projects have highlighted that a large majority of organisations believe that significant talent gaps exist in several critical technology areas, such as product development, software engineering, AI/machine learning, cloud, cybersecurity, data science as well as in behavioural skills such as design thinking and business modelling,” the Capgemini report notes.

Certification isn’t necessarily a requirement for the premium paying jobs either, according to the Robert Half survey, with employers willing to be flexible with certain experience and certifications.

Fourteen percent of employers were prepared to be flexible about certifications, with eight percent saying they’re flexible about the required education.

The certification flexibility, however, doesn’t extend to some areas of technology, with employers adamant certifications are necessary in security, privacy and compliance (64 percent); cloud architecture and operations (55 percent); network and systems administration (54 percent); software and application development and technology process automation (both 50 percent).

“Certifications still provide tangible proof that a candidate has expertise in key areas, which is particularly necessary for industries such as finance and technology, as they require a high degree of accuracy and regulatory compliance,” Gorton says.

“These credentials validate a candidates ability to navigate complex frameworks, as well as assure employers that they possess the in-depth knowledge and proficiency necessary for success in these demanding sectors.”

There was even more flexibility when it came to industry experience – some 29 percent said they’d bend on that criteria, while 28 percent said they’d be flexible about the number of years experience required.

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