Hays’ Director, James Hallahan, on Employer Branding, Tech Lay-Offs and AI’s Impact on Workforce

Hays’ Director, James Hallahan, on Employer Branding, Tech Lay-Offs and AI’s Impact on Workforce

Interview by Ricardo Esteves
Published: February 17, 2023

Who Is James Hallahan

James Hallahan is a seasoned director with over 20 years of experience in technology and digital recruitment. As the current director at Hays in the UK and Ireland, he is responsible for driving strategic growth across both private and public sectors. Prior to his current role, Hallahan served as the COO at InterQuest Group, CEO at Ignata and Managing Director at Mortimer Spinks.

The job market is living a paradox of sorts. With tech companies laying off employees on masse and AI tools becoming more advanced, many are left wondering if jobs might be on the line. However, amidst all the uncertainty, recruitment agencies like Hays might be a solution.

As a British recruitment agency with a global presence spanning 33 countries around the world, Hays has been helping both job seekers and employers navigate the complexities of the job market for more than two decades.

In this interview with its Director, James Hallahan, we discuss current trends in the job market, employer branding, salary transparency, importance of company culture and how individuals can make the most of AI in the workforce.

Spotlight: Employer branding is important to attract top talent. What are the key attributes modern job seekers look for in a company?

James Hallahan: Professionals have many priorities when it comes to choosing a prospective employer today. Firstly, the values an organization holds are vital for attracting and retaining talent, as reflected in the results of our 2023 UK Salary and Recruiting Trends Guide.

When assessing whether to apply for a new role, 69% of professionals agree that an organization's ability to demonstrate a diverse and inclusive culture influences their decision, 78% say an organization's commitment to sustainability is crucial and 85% believe it is important for an organization to have a strong sense of purpose.

Job seekers are increasingly drawn in by the benefits an organization has to offer too. Aside from salary, a third of employees say the most imperative factor when considering a new role is work-life balance.

Our research also shows that a flexible hybrid approach, where employees can decide when they are in the workplace, would tempt 62% of professionals to change jobs. These key attributes have an impact on well-being, another significant aspect of employer branding.

How does Hays help companies create an attractive and authentic employer branding that resonates with potential candidates?

Building a positive and effective employer branding is crucial for any organization today.

We keep companies up to date with the latest trends so they can respond to what entices professionals today. We encourage organizations to consider why people would want to work for them both in theory and practice.

It’s important for an organization to not only communicate their brand – illustrating it on their website is a good starting point – but to follow through with it every day.

As our research shows, a strong sense of purpose is necessary for attracting candidates; 85% of professionals believe an organization's purpose is important when considering a new role. Therefore, organizations must emphasize what they represent and the reasoning behind the work they do.

What differentiates Hays from other platforms and how did it become a leader in recruiting qualified and skilled individuals worldwide?

With over 50 years of success, we’ve evolved to ensure people are at the heart of everything we do. As a lifelong, leadership partner working for your tomorrow, we provide the latest insights and expertise on issues organizations face today, to help them make the right decisions for tomorrow.

In turn, we empower our clients and candidates to thrive: their success is our motivator.

Our unmatched recruitment and workforce solutions, knowledge through global scale, deep understanding and our ability to significantly innovate for our worldwide customers is what distinguishes us as experts in the ever-changing world of work.

Hays logo in a white background

How important is salary transparency in today’s recruitment strategy?

In terms of salary transparency, according to our UK 2023 Salary Guide, 61% of employers agree that their organization is consistently transparent with all employees about how pay levels and rises are set.

On the flip side, nearly half (46%) of employees disagree and want to see pay transparency improve.

Since majority of professionals (79%) consider transparency around pay as crucial, organizations ought to tap into the importance of this factor to develop an effective recruitment strategy.

Employees wondering whether they’re being paid in line with other professionals can check out our salary checker tool to inform their salary expectations and gain the insights they need.

This year, we’ve seen massive layoffs from tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Meta and even Amazon. What tools and resources does Hays provide for anyone looking to get back into the job market?

Firstly, whilst tech layoffs have been widespread, they are not reflective of the job market overall. There will always be opportunities out there for talented, hard-working individuals so our role is to make candidates aware of these and to offer crucial advice, particularly as the tech skills gap intensifies.

We urge people to keep their CV up to date to ensure it reflects their skills, experiences and potential.

Especially when it comes to tech, it’s essential to be on top of the latest developments. We provide insights such as the top ten in-demand tech jobs to apply for in 2023, which include Business Analyst, Project Manager and Software Engineer.

What are some of the current job trends in the market that both employers and job seekers should know?

The majority (93%) of employers experienced skills shortages last year, predominantly caused by competition from other employers, a trend which is likely to continue in the year ahead.

That’s why it’s crucial for organizations to set themselves apart to attract and retain talent in today’s candidate-driven market. It’s also more important than ever for professionals to be willing to upskill for the future.

A flexible hybrid approach to working is still popular amongst professionals; 62% would be tempted to change jobs if they could choose how often they were in the workplace. As well as this, we have recently seen work-life balance become a top priority for employees.

In terms of the technology sector specifically, the demand for tech skills isn’t going away. Hiring plans remain strong as 84% of employers intend on recruiting this year.

When it comes to pay, the industry witnessed a 7% average salary increase over the last year and, promisingly, 78% of employers plan to improve salaries in the upcoming months.

Soft skills continue to be invaluable, particularly communication and interpersonal skills, which are currently sought after by 64% of tech employers.

Lastly, how does Hays approach the potential impact of AI on job roles, and how can individuals prepare for a future where AI may be more prevalent in the workforce?

The rise of AI in recent times cannot be ignored, but instead of fearing advancements in technology as a threat to jobs, we ought to see them as an opportunity.

Professionals who are able to understand and handle AI can utilize it to increase productivity at low cost, especially amidst today’s skills shortages. Some employees are already taking advantage of AI by using it as a starting point for their work.

Rest assured, there are certain skillsets that only humans bring to the table, which make us indispensable. Take soft skills such as creativity, a current limitation of AI, which considerably reduces the chance of human jobs being replaced.

We suggest individuals focus on brushing up on their soft skills, which are so essential for success across a range of industries. In this way, rather than competing with AI, we can mobilize it to drive innovation alongside us.

Thank you for your time, James Hallahan. Best of luck to you and Hays!

Keep up with Hays on LinkedIn and read about other successful businesses here.

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