The Labour Market - Things Have Changed - Hartley People

The Labour Market – Things Have Changed

Is it harder than it ever has been to find professional staff? Well, lots of things have changed and lots are still changing. There is a huge shortage of talent in certain sectors such as IT, Quality and Engineering to name but a few – and it threatens to hamper our economic recovery.

Recruitment is always a good barometer of economic activity and the experience on the ground at Hartley People is that the recovery is even more pronounced that the official figures may suggest. The SME sector is finally powering ahead with renewed confidence and Business Managers and Owners are now in full scale growth mode, having moved well beyond the ‘batten down the hatches’ mentality of recent years.

This confidence has lead to a huge increase in demand for staff, particularly for professional labour. Although some of the shortages (and the reasons) are well documented, there are two trends that are not reported in the national statistics that are creating stagflation in the labour market…

Firstly, we have changed! In the height of the economic boom years, the ‘rat race’ was in full flight and everyone wanted part of it. People were looking for the next move, the next salary increase – job security was old school, a thing our parents were interested in, but not relevant in the new order of things.

There has been a cultural shift in the labour market and employees now put great value on job security and stability. If I can do my job well, my employer is secure and I get paid the market rate, then why would I move? This is the new (and probably healthier!) view that employees now have – they are not prepared to move for a ‘quick hit’ salary increase alone.

In addition, employees are also acutely aware that employers are using the probationary period of any new employment to ensure they have secured a high performing employee and are not prepared to continue with employees that are average/good. Employers are now insisting on high performance from new employees and they are prepared to cut their ties if this is not evident during the probationary period. Candidates know this and have become more cautious… and as a result, it adds to the stagnant nature of the jobs market.

Secondly, we are caught in what we at Hartley People call the ‘like for like’ syndrome. Candidates who are potentially open to a move are toying with a jobs market where few employers want to pay above market rate.

So we have candidates that are being paid at market rate… and the jobs on offer are at market rate. Candidates are slow to move and need a significant salary increase to justify the risk of making a move. Employers don’t want to pay above market rate as the mindset of Executives has become more frugal and cognisant of keeping costs under control.


At Hartley People, we believe that this ‘cultural’ shift has created a situation where jobs are not being filled and the movement of labour has been hampered. Everyone is right, but everyone is being held back. There is no easy answer.This more prudent approach by both candidate and employer means that skilled talent is harder to source now than at any time in the past decade.

As the economy continues to grow, market forces will eventually take effect and candidate confidence will recover to the point where they are more open to change and the cogs of the great labour market machine will once again move more freely. Until then, we have to work through the stalemate and hopefully continue our economic recovery in a sustainable way, having learnt from the mistakes of the past.

If you would like to discuss this or any other issue relating to sourcing the best staff for your business, please contact Fergal Hartley on 051 – 878813 or e-mail