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A recruiter’s view of the reward market

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The market for reward, compensation and benefit skills is constantly evolving. With employment at its highest point since before the recession but with a decrease in real wages, how is this affecting demand and provision for reward skills?

Reward options

In terms of skills, there has been definite growth in the area of executive compensation, in part fuelled by the increased scrutiny of packages of senior executives brought about by the financial crisis, but also driven by a real need to attract and retain top talent. The visibility of these packages has increase based around ensuring that the real costs of these benefits / packages are known to the board, finance and of course shareholders.

A marked increase in demand for “global” candidates and ones with specific experience in emerging markets or developing countries has been driven by continued expansion in some areas but also by consolidation of roles and skills in others. Senior reward managers are in effect taking responsibility for larger geographical areas as a way of decreasing head count at a senior level, although these moves are often supported by the addition of analysts or other more junior positions.

There has also been continued controversy around pensions with companies rushing to ensure they complied with auto enrolment and avoided large fines. However, many have found themselves with poorly set up pensions that comply but are not fit for purpose. In effect, pension specialists are being called upon to re-evaluate the pensions that have just been put in place to ensure that they comply with recent regulation and are also competitive in the market place and help in attracting top talent.

Market growth

As the market continues to improve with high employment and higher exports, it is difficult to see anything except for the continued growth in demand for reward skills. The increase in employment will further drive the fight for top talent, but with the focus on costs, a more inventive approach to attracting and keeping these highly sought after individuals will be needed.

The elasticity of employers has been tested with flexible working proving to be one successful way of attracting talent without massive additional cost. More flexibility around the skills sought has seen the possibility of training being provided on certain skill sets and development of individual skills is also seen as a real alternative to additional cost in salaries.

We have already seen the additional competition, with good candidates managing to interview with a number of different employers and once they are through the process, current employers are fighting tooth and nail to keep their staff with highly competitive counter offers. These counter offers can be associated with significant increases in basic salary up to a level of 40%, which in turn can lead to an overall package increase in excess of 50%.

Whilst this is an extreme example, counter offers have also come in the form of the promise of added responsibility and or specific training that would increase the value of the individual as a reward commodity.

The contract market is also growing markedly with companies failing to attract the individuals they require on a permanent basis within required timescales leading to more project-based temporary assignments. This is also reflected by the large reward consultancies starting to recruit aggressively again to offer another option to firms who struggle to fill the skills gap.

Applicant requirements

It’s an interesting and growing market and there is a need for potential employees to make themselves stand out. Ideal candidates for permanent positions come from steady backgrounds, and in order to make themselves standout, successful candidates are tailoring their applications to the individual job roles that they are applying for.

Personal statements are a key way to make sure a candidate stands out, highlighting the skills that are most relevant to the position and a “key achievements” section showing the individuals most relevant projects to again highlight their suitability to the role.

They key to success in this market is flexibility and speed. Those organisations with the most fluid approach to recruitment are the most successful in their attempts to attract the best reward talent. The reward market can look forward to a buoyant future, with great prospects for recruiters who are true specialists in the field. 

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