06 September 2021
06 September 2021
How has the pandemic and lockdowns affected the recruitment market in the Australian A&D sectors?
We sat down with some of the leaders in our Australian offices to discuss how the current pandemic restrictions are affecting recruitment levels across Australia. The following article was written by Krista Shearer — Managing Director in Sydney, Kate Owens — Managing Director in Melbourne and Gemma Bradley — Associate in Brisbane.
What is happening in the Australian architecture and design market?
The markets remain extremely buoyant across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane despite the continuing lockdowns and race to vaccinate across Australia. It’s a candidate market, and demand remains high at all levels across the architecture, interiors and product sectors.
With international and many interstate borders closed, the biggest issue is a lack of candidates and the reluctance of people to risk moving during a lockdown. We’re also continuing to see a drift towards candidates heading back overseas due to the pull of family, and they are not being replaced with an equal volume of incoming candidates. The lack of working holiday visas in the country is also impacting on the overall supply, in particular of temporary contractors/casual employees.
Most active candidates are attending multiple interviews and receiving more than one offer.
While salaries did increase in the early half of the calendar year, this has now tapered off except for those exceptional candidates where we are still seeing multiple offers and increased salary packages due to high competition.
Which clients are having the most success hiring?
The clients having the most success when hiring are those who have the best reputation for culture and design quality, and those who offer flexibility and the opportunity for remote working after the end of lockdown. It’s harder for both candidates and clients to connect effectively in an online interview and it’s a shame that there’s not the opportunity to take people around the office or meet with as many people. We are currently seeing a trend of second and third interviews happening as a result of the shift to online interviews and final rounds being conducted in the office. We are also noticing the importance of offering timely feedback between interviews, staying in communication throughout the process and finally making a fair offer, that is competitive with current market rates - see our latest salary guide here.
We’re noticing that candidates are also more interested in studios which have an up-to-date and fresh brand, a current website featuring their recent projects and information on company culture available, so they’re able to gain insight into what it’s like to work at the company. Ultimately, they want to work with nice people!
What feedback are candidates giving if they are accepting or declining?
Candidates are taking the time to talk to their friends in the industry for feedback on studios and are also researching online review platforms, so reputation continues to remain very important.
It’s important for the clients to build a strong rapport with candidates in the interview process. Engaging the candidate on a zoom call can be difficult so emphasising that they’ve taken the time to read through the candidates CV and the Bespoke interview notes we provide with the aim of understanding the candidate’s skillset and motivators. Directors and hiring managers also need to adjust to the market and sell the opportunity.
The aim is to make the meeting feel like a two-way interview process, where clients are considering “what makes my studio/role/opportunity better than the others they are interviewing for?”. Candidates also want to know as much as possible about their likely role, room for growth, and information about the projects they are likely to be working on. We have noticed some unrealistic salary expectations due to the frenzy of movement in the market in the first half of 2021.
What skills and backgrounds are in the highest demand?
Practices are looking for key team members in a permanent capacity and most are also looking for options to resource immediate project needs.
In Sydney and Melbourne, the demand for flexible resourcing has increased over the past few months and many studios have requested short-term contractors (particularly 8-12 weeks) based on project deadlines. That said, the start of the year saw most studios gearing towards permanent hires. Candidates who have strong all-round skills across design, technical and communication are in high demand as always. We are also seeing buoyancy across most market sectors, however the most notable would be across health, education, infrastructure, commercial and residential.
In Brisbane, we are seeing a strong demand for project leaders operating at a level of around 5-10 years’ experience, with specialist sector experience in health, education, mixed-use and multi-residential. A demand for mid-senior level interior designers is also starting to emerge. Also, as always in Australia anyone with strong Revit capabilities is highly sought after.
How have the pandemic and lockdowns affected recruiting in your industry?
There was an initial hiatus on hiring and a few redundancies in the second quarter of 2020 across the country as some major projects were put on hold or cancelled. As things picked up there was a strong shift towards contract hires over permanent placements, whilst there was still uncertainty in the market.
The pandemic also caused the highest level on record of internal migration within Australia, people moving away from the bigger cities and many of them relocating for a more affordable and balanced lifestyle.
In Brisbane, there is a strong demand for housing and services and the multi-residential sector has bounced back fast, with many projects pegged in a seemingly never-ending pipeline of work. The healthcare sector is also busy with many hospitals and medical projects getting the green light.
Thankfully in Sydney and Melbourne the current extended lockdowns have had no effect on market demand to date. Studios are forging ahead with online interviews and onboarding. There is a noticeable sense of pride in practices being able to onboard and continue a ‘business as usual’ mentality with all roles able to work remotely and systems in place from our warm-up in lockdown in 2020.
We are seeing remote working can have challenges for staff retention particularly for those new to the team. We encourage some extra check-ins and discussions with anyone that started in the last 18 months.
What does the future hold?
Brisbane particularly has recorded the largest population growth of any Australian city at 1.9% in 2019-2020 and this growth rate is projected to continue at a similar rate throughout 2021-2022. The announcement that Brisbane is to host the 2032 Summer Olympics is set to bring a demand for the best specialist design and construction skills within sports, infrastructure and public realm sectors.
Overall, across Australia a candidate-short market will continue to shape the first half of the financial year, once borders open again we will see international candidates ease some congestion and provide resourcing options. How long this will be is hard to say!
Author: Krista Shearer, Kate Owens & Gemma Bradley, Bespoke Careers