The Australian jobs market was in free-fall in the middle of 2020, and the PR and Communications industry was certainly not spared from the carnage. Telum has taken a look back at the 2020 jobs market, and asked the experts about what the year might hold.
First, the statistics from last year.
Seek reported a dramatic decline in job advertisements in the Marketing and Communications sectors the first half of 2020. The impact of COVID-19 on the industry is clear to see, with month-on-month job advertisements falling off a cliff in April. The resurgence in July was in line with restrictions being eased in most states and territories.
adzuna.com.au recorded a decrease in the average advertised salary of roles in the PR and Communications industry, down to $87,299 in 2020 from $91,015 in 2019. Adzuna Australia Country Manager, Tejas Deshpande, points to the early increase in average advertised salaries in 2021 so far as an indication business confidence is improving in the sector.
“While the number of jobs advertised in the PR and Communications declined across many sectors, namely travel and consumer-focused PR, there was strong demand for highly skilled practitioners, particularly in Government, healthcare and tech PR.
“Now that restrictions are being relaxed and the prospect of travel is on the horizon, I expect average advertised salaries to continue tracking upward across the board,” Tejas said.
The migration of workers from the office to home set-ups in 2020 resulted in hiring managers and job seekers having new expectations in the workplace. Rebecca Tabakoff, Executive Director and Founder of Temple Executive Search, shared her insights about what jobseekers and hiring managers are looking for in 2021.
What are the key attributes employees will be looking for when applying for new jobs in 2021?
High performing Corporate Affairs teams and professionals really got to demonstrate their value during 2020. Whether it was through complex government relations requirements, media engagement, internal communications, or investor relations, corporates relied upon communications teams more than ever before. As we move into 2021, candidates are looking for roles where they can continue to add value and be valued by the broader business. They want to be part of a team that has high exposure to the senior leadership team and where there is opportunity to learn and grow.
Flexibility is another big driver for employees. We all saw through 2020 that working from home was achievable and candidates are insisting that flexibility is carried through to new roles even in the absence of actual restrictions.
What are the key characteristics employers will be looking for in new hires in 2021?
Employers are looking for candidates at every level who are strategic and whose communications practice delivers results for the business. Paradoxically, working from home in 2020 left some employees exposed and it became abundantly clear if communicators were going through the motions or actually moving the dial on strategic imperatives. There is no longer any room for what I call “post office” functions where you are simply passing messages between stakeholders. Organisations under financial pressure won’t retain those functions and that’s where we are seeing restructuring in some cases.
2020 also saw a rise in the need for employees who are very adept at internal stakeholder engagement- that is, how well you understand the business and how well the business understands your function. Employers want candidates who can engage with senior executives and assist them to execute their strategy, but also who can ensure that they are respected and the business acts on their advice. Building internal relationships and trust quickly is key to achieving this. This was harder to achieve with remote working and so corporate affairs teams really had to strive to achieve that level of internal connection.
What will we see when it comes to remote workplaces in 2021? Do managers want workers back in the office? What is driving decisions on this issue?
It’s really a mixed bag on how employers are managing working from home. Some are very keen to have their teams together (subject to health and government restrictions) and others are very comfortable with continuing remote arrangements beyond the COVID requirements.
I worry for junior members of teams who will miss out on learning opportunities by observing more senior practitioners as remote working continues. It’s how I learnt in my corporate affairs career. On the other hand, as a working mother I value the flexibility of remote working. Moving forward, I think there will need to be a balance of working together to build skills, culture, team etc and supporting remote working for flexibility.
Are there any trends you’re seeing when it comes to what an employer is offering new hires to entice them to join a company?
There isn’t a particular trend in what employers are offering candidates per se, but they are having to be more flexible to meet candidates’ requirements. We have negotiated everything from remote working and more flexible working, through to study allowances and sign-on bonuses. The market for great candidates is tight and employers who understand that employees also have choices will secure the best candidates.
Are we seeing a shift to more freelance / contract work in the industry? What’s driving this?
Contract working did not fare well through 2020 unless there was already a previous relationship with the contractor. It stands to reason that if everyone is working from home, it’s difficult to bring on a temporary worker who doesn’t know the organisation. We found organisations much more willing to take on permanent employees and invest in their success. A lot of this work was absorbed by strategic communications firms who are adept at acting on briefs quickly, particularly in issues and crisis situations and in Government Relations.
Interestingly, we have seen some organisations move to setting up an agile corporate affairs team within their function, so they are more able to respond to projects as they arise without interrupting business-as-usual requirements. Those teams operate almost like an internal agency and execute on big issues, crises or events. It’s a clever model that ensures corporate affairs teams are able to quickly respond to the evolving needs of the business – especially useful in the volatile environment in which we find ourselves.
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