The figures don’t lie, and you don’t need me to tell you that this is a very challenging time for the Australian job market. As Australia has lurched from lockdown to easing restrictions and back again over the last few months, the impact on an economy bereft of certainty has been painful to watch, with thousands of professionals either furloughed or, worse still, made redundant as businesses race to cut costs to stay afloat.
As a specialist recruiter within the Data and Business Intelligence markets, it’s been a challenging time to say the least. Yet amongst the carnage of the Covid slowdown, there are some interesting shifts taking place that lead me to believe better times are ahead.
Demand for Data has increased
One example can be found in UK Global Intelligence provider Corinium’s 2020 State of Data and Analytics survey, published in July. After surveying 80 Data and Analytics Leaders across their key European market, they found that data and business intelligence departments have reported a 60% increase in demand for their services since the pandemic started, as organisations rush to make sense of the new economic environment.
Another factor the survey highlighted was the speed at which the data was required, with many executives demanding real time information in order to make decisions quickly. As Wendy Gilbert – Director of Global Data at Expedia Group – highlighted:
“We used to plan quarterly. Then, when COVID-19 hit, that went to daily planning”
This increased ‘need for speed’ has also accelerated the shift to Agile practices, with Gilbert going on to comment that “the industry has been moving towards an Agile methodology for years, but COVID-19 has reinforced the need for this shift.”
Doing More with Less (for now)
So, if demand for data has increased, and the timeframe of requirements has shortened, surely the basic laws of supply and demand would infer an increased demand for Data Professionals? Unfortunately not, at least in the short term. As the survey also highlights, 41% of Data departments expect their budgets to DECREASE in the coming months, indicating that job creation is not at the forefront of even the most forward thinking of organisations just yet. Given the immense pressure on budgets across all business units, the data industry has not been immune to cuts, and this is being borne out not just in Europe, but also here in Australia too.
In speaking with my clients in the local market, anecdotal evidence suggests that many data teams across the country have been caught up in hiring freezes as well as industry specific redundancies. There are exceptions to this – Utilities, E-Commerce, Health Tech and Government sectors have seen some growth in recent months – but in general it’s been a downward trend for employment in the sector in Q2.
Although it’s clear that an increase in demand for data cannot reduce demand for data professionals in the long term, the current state of play seems to be attempting to do more with less, at least for now.
A Silver Lining Ahead?
Despite the obvious trend of lower economic activity leading to a sharp fall in employment opportunities, one positive trend for the job market may be a shift in attitudes towards data projects in the medium term. As the aforementioned survey outlines,
“33% of respondents say their colleagues are more interested in investing in cloud services now than they were before the pandemic. What’s more, 29% say the same about investing in digital transformation technologies.”
This shift in mindset of business executives to data-based projects is significant, as most recruiters in the sector will tell you that projects are one of the key drivers of employment market demand. If this attitude was to be replicated in Australia, it would have a positive impact on job opportunities for Data professionals in the local market, although given the general market uncertainty, this may manifest itself in demand for contract resources initially. The transition to contract employment – often the stop gap solution when uncertainty reigns – has not taken hold as yet, although expect this to be the first signs of a pick-up in employment prospects for the sector in the coming months.
In summary, given the almost daily changes to economic conditions we are experiencing – particularly in my home state of Victoria! – at present, it’s a little early to say whether the market for business intelligence and data specialists will lead Australia’s job market recovery. However, the trends from overseas are positive and once the restrictions are over and a sense of day to day normality returns, it’s fair to assume that data analytics will once again be a skill in demand in Australia. Indeed, the importance of this pandemic in highlighting the ever-increasing need for real time business data may be the industry’s silver lining in the long run.
This article was written for The 5th Wave (www.the5thwave.com.au) and is featured on their website here: