Gareth Jones
Mercer Evolve Practice Leader
May Lee
Culture and Experience Lead

While hard for some to imagine with borders closed and the economy still in stand-still, many businesses are starting to position themselves for when they will once again have access to overseas talent pools. This is no-truer than for Australia’s big consulting firms who are facing an influx of work that's come in from a quicker-than-expected economic recovery.

 

Like all global professional services firms, Australia's big four consulting firms recruit from overseas to work on client projects – both from their internal talent pool and from outside their business. But this supply of staff has been severely curtailed by COVID-19-related restrictions on travel into the country, forcing Australian firms to turn inwards.

 

This dramatic escalation in project work and lack of access to global talent has created a domestic candidate’s market unlike we’ve ever seen. As of February 2021, there were more than a thousand[1] active job advertisements across auditing, management consulting and IT consulting.

As a result, employers have shifted their focus towards retention, promotion, and upskilling their own people. In the process, companies are facing a temptation to address the current issue without consideration for long-term planning.

 

“Companies are going to extraordinary lengths to keep their critical mass of talent,” said Gareth Jones, leader of talent and succession management experts, Mercer Evolve.

 

“We’re increasingly seeing unprecedented rewards such as significantly higher salaries, accelerated promotions and retention bonuses. They’re also offering to fund further education for colleagues, including MBAs and even PhDs,” said Mr Jones.

 

And, it’s never been harder to move candidates away from their employer into new opportunities. In the last few weeks alone, some three-quarters of professional services offers that Mercer has been involved in on behalf of clients received counter offers from employers – and the candidates stayed with their existing employer.

“Companies are going to extraordinary lengths to keep their critical mass of talent,” said Gareth Jones, leader of talent and succession management experts, Mercer Evolve.

“We’re increasingly seeing unprecedented rewards such as significantly higher salaries, accelerated promotions and retention bonuses. They’re also offering to fund further education for colleagues, including MBAs and even PhDs,” said Mr Jones.

 

And, it’s never been harder to move candidates away from their employer into new opportunities. In the last few weeks alone, some three-quarters of professional services offers that Mercer has been involved in on behalf of clients received counter offers from employers – and the candidates stayed with their existing employer.

 

These short-term incentives, however, could stifle an organisation’s long-term strategic approach to talent recruitment and retention.

 

Instead, employers must be strategic in revisiting their employee value propositions and think innovatively about what’s in the organisation’s best interest, as well as the employee’s.

 

“In a candidate’s market, it’s critical for employers to make decisions for the long-term, rather than the current stop-gap approach that throws money at the problem. Sooner or later, borders will re-open, and firms will once again have access to global talent,” Mr Jones said.

 

May Lee, Mercer’s Employee Experience lead, said that a key consideration for the employee experience is that individuals today are considering the full range of life priorities, and not just focussing on the more traditional drivers of money and career – particularly true for millennials and younger generations.

“Our work environment is increasingly complex, making it difficult to separate work and life. Individuals are more conscious of how they use their time, and as a result are seeking employers that align with their values and mirror their beliefs. Whilst money may offer a tempting incentive to attract talent, it will be the pathways that promote purpose-led and meaningful connections that will help employees stay and thrive within organisations,” she said.

Data from our Global Talent Trends study found that more than one-third of employees favour companies that focus on social equity and environmental protection[1]. The onus is clearly on businesses to examine its responsibilities to its people, shareholders, and communities. They must prioritise environmental and social commitments and understand the diverse characteristics and needs of their employees.  

 

Employers that prioritise mental health and wellbeing were also prioritised by employees. Employers who practically demonstrate empathy and understand the environment their employees operate in are considered more favourably than those with a less understanding approach.

 

“For leading organisations, reassessing your employee value proposition is key to long-term retention, particularly at times when there is limited access to global talent pools.

 

“While rewards and incentives are effective short-term solutions that provide temporary relief, they’ll be problematic in the long term. Attracting and retaining the right talent for your organisations is about taking a more strategic approach. You’ll need to consider the changing wants and needs of employees, while balancing what you’ll need from a workforce perspective to achieve long-term success for your business,” said Lee.

 

If employers don’t address rising concerns over sustainability, health, skills, and financial security they could be digging themselves a hole that will be difficult to emerge from on the other side of the pandemic.


[1] https://www.afr.com/companies/professional-services/how-big-four-staff-can-turbocharge-their-career-in-a-hot-jobs-market-20210129-p56xqo
[2] 2021 Global Talent Trends study, The Future of Work

 

A version of this article first appeared in HR Daily.


Get in touch with Mercer...

Chris Perritt

Gareth Jones
Mercer Evolve Practice Leader

 

May Lee
Culture and Experience Lead

 


Speak with a Mercer Consultant

Want to learn more? Complete the form below and a Mercer Consultant will be in contact with you.

 

*Required Fields