Riding out the storm
Despite ominous predictions about the fate of the Italian economy during 2011, the job market for professionals and managers in the country, while certainly not buoyant, has remained fairly consistent throughout the year to date.
The latest Global Snapshot, the quarterly survey carried out by Antal in 47 key employment markets around the world, found that 48% of companies were currently hiring at this level and 46% expected to do so over the coming quarter.
Only 14% were in the process of shedding staff and this appeared unlikely to change throughout the autumn months.
A silo-based market
Like many Western European countries, Italy now has a job market which combines significant skill shortages in some areas with complete over-supply in others. This is most definitely the age of the specialist – the trick, of course, to be the right sort of specialist! Demand for professionals with significant experience of risk and control, for example, remains relatively high as both governments, banks and corporations focus on avoiding a re-run of the events of 2008. The renewable sector is busy, as is the white goods industry and Italy’s position at the forefront of the luxury good arena means that many high profile brands are still thriving despite general economic gloom.
This emphasis on very specific skills and experience means that a war for talent is being fought over some individuals while others struggle just to find interviews . And where this war is at its fiercest we are seeing organisations resorting to first year or even signing on bonuses in order to gain competitive advantage. For example our Milan office placed a specialist with an international company recently on a salary of around €70,000 – just over market rate for someone with their particular skills and experience. However the employer was so keen to secure their services that they also paid a commencement bonus of €15,000, not just a significant sum in itself, but also not even conditional on the individual staying past the end of their probationary period.
A changing workplace
The Berlusconi government has come under increasing criticism for its reluctance to embrace change and institute reforms that might help to turn around Italy’s economic fortunes. However it seems that the country’s professionals and managers do not share this inability to face up to the demands of the marketplace.
Over the past couple of years, for example, we have seen more Italians coming to terms with the erosion of the traditional model of full-time, permanent employment and accepting the ‘portfolio’ approach of successive short-term contracts that is now so prevalent in countries such as the UK and USA. We have also seen more acceptance of the idea of working from a ‘home office’ rather than in a more conventional set up. And much of the impetus for this has been created by a trend for foreign companies to begin their investment in the Italian market on a small scale, employing one or two manager initially working from home at low cost until returns can justify a more significant commitment of resources.
So while few Italians are likely to look back on the economic downturn with any sense of affection, it may end up having the benefit of dragging the Italian workplace, albeit reluctantly, into the 21st century.