Workers must adjust to keep jobs in economic gloom


Workers must adjust to keep jobs in economic gloom

One in three candidates for a new job has been affected, directly or indirectly, by redundancy, and many workers may have to make adjustments to find or keep a job, according to a new survey.


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One in three candidates for a new job has been affected, directly or indirectly, by redundancy, and many workers may have to make adjustments to find or keep a job, according to a new survey.
The survey, by HR consulting and recruitment company Chandler Macleod Group (CMG), says many workers are living in a state of fear about their job security.
CMG undertook the research in February among 5250 candidates and found that 76% of those who had seen fellow workers lose jobs to redundancies will be looking for a new job themselves in the next six months.
Over one-half of them directly attributed this decision to the ‘current economic climate’. Only 7% said they planned to change their jobs for a higher salary and 18% said they wanted to seek new challenges.
More than 45% of those surveyed and in full-time employment believe there are limited job opportunities for them.
Downturn ‘more challenging than expected’
David Reynolds, CMG’s executive general manager, said the economic downturn was much deeper and more challenging than most thought it would be.
‘I believe that job losses will continue to rise steeply before the financial year ends in June 2009 as organisations will need to show they have the strategies and structures in place to face the challenges of the financial year ahead,’ he said.
‘Unemployment should rise to around 7% by the end of 2009,’ he said.
12 months more pain
‘It’s possible that we’ll have up to another 12 months of more pain before we start to see an improvement in the economy and the demand for candidates increase.'
‘Unfortunately, in a typical downturn, jobs are the last to feel the full effects and the last to recover.'
‘When recovery does come, it will be slow at first and then escalate as organisations wait and look for signs of recovery before they commit to increased fixed costs.'
‘As a result, many businesses may look for temporary hiring solutions or revert to a variable workforce to get them over the six to nine month recovery period and then we will see a return to the candidate-driven market.’
Starting to ‘cut muscle’
Reynolds said companies had cut a fair degree of fat already and were now starting to cut into ‘muscle’.
‘Unfortunately, when employers cut deep they cut out key talent and the heart of their organisation,’ he said. ‘In order to save their jobs, sometimes employees need to share the risk and make sacrifices too.’
Reynolds said up to 50% of employees may be required to change their work mode with their employer.
He said that as a result of the economic slowdown, a number of initiatives have already been introduced such as the three- to four-day working week, taking of all accrued leave, part-time and contract work, and sabbaticals. One law firm is paying some of its employees 20% of their salaries to take a year off work.
Update skills
Reynolds said there are opportunities for candidates who are prepared to update their skill sets to ensure they match the current needs of employers.
‘Not surprisingly, the candidates who are in greatest demand at the moment are those who have skills in risk mitigation, analysis, procurement and improving profitability and productivity,’ he said.
‘In addition, organisations are looking for people who have experienced previous downturns.’
CMG’s executive general manager of professional & executive recruitment, Peter Gleeson, said candidates need to be aware which companies and sectors are still recruiting, and which new roles are being created as businesses realign themselves to survive.
Job growth
‘For example, we are seeing job growth in government, not-for-profit, health and utilities sectors,’ he said.
‘We are also seeing good demand for job applicants in the industry areas of food such as fast food, bakeries and grocery chains. By way of example, both Dominos Pizzas and Woolworths continue to hire and grow market share,’ he said.
‘Certainly, some people will be forced to change industries. Financial services professionals are an obvious example of a group of people where many are being forced to reinvent themselves due to the extinction of their roles.'
‘Qualities that employers are looking for today in candidates are: resilience; strong leadership; ability to seek ways to remain competitive from a business development standpoint; and the ability to be more productive with limited resources.’
What you need to do
CMG provided the following list of what candidates and employees need to do over the next 12 months:
  • Don’t assume your job is going to be safe — plan for alternative contingencies.
  • If required, make concessions such as forgoing perks and benefits, and consider taking a salary cut if it means you’ll keep your job.
  • Research which industries and companies are hiring.
  • Demonstrate to your current/prospective employer that you have skills relevant to the current market that will help the company survive and thrive; tell them how you can make a difference and meet objectives and goals in the current market.
  • Use your network to speak with people connected with a particular organisation to gain as much insight as possible.
  • Seek advice on which skills you need to highlight and/or update and undertake appropriate development courses — invest in your future.
  • If looking for a new role, then you may have to compromise in terms of position and salary.
  • Consider taking a smaller bonus and a higher risk component in the salary package.
  • Be prepared to take on flexible work options such as contract work, shorter working hours or weeks, or job sharing.
  • Identify your key strengths and align these to the needs of the business and/or role.
  • Ensure from the first time you make contact with a prospective employer you clearly demonstrate your capacity to change the area of business you are going into and can positively influence the company’s return on investment in an immediate fashion.
  • Prepare a list of likely interview questions and work on the answers, ensuring you have responses that resonate with the company and that reflect the current business objectives the organisation is trying to achieve.
  • Rehearse your interview with your recruitment or outplacement specialist to obtain constructive feedback and fine tune your approach.
  • See this environment as an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do — what do you have to lose?
Workers decide to cut hours, not jobs
And in the vein of workers making adjustments, staff at the steel transportation company Pacific National have decided to cut their hours by 20% rather than see some employees lose their jobs entirely.
The company, based at Port Kembla south of Sydney, has seen its business decline by 20% because of the economic crisis.
Management was thinking about cutting the workforce by 20%; but, instead, decided to let the workforce collectively cut their hours.
Better business sense
Business manager Graham Moore said it made better business sense to avoid job losses because there was the cost of training the staff in the first place, which would be lost, and there was also the impact on the local community.
‘One of the things that came out of it was the idea that they would prefer to share the pay rather than lose people,’ he said.
‘So rather than have potentially 10, 15 people out of work in the workroom, that they would look at reducing their hours across the board, and as a result, keep people.’
The plan means all of Pacific National's rail workers get to keep their jobs, but their working week is now only 34 hours.
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