Australian businesses are set to return their IT investments back to pre-COVID levels, with IT budget expectations surpassing what was expected 12 months ago.
Over the next year, 31 per cent of Australian businesses expect an increase in their IT budgets, according to specialist recruitment agency Clicks IT Recruitment's 2021 IT Recruitment and Retention Report.
Sourced from a survey of over 400 businesses, the recruitment firm claimed budget growth sentiment is higher now than what it was a year ago in December 2019, when 27 per cent of respondents expected a budget increase.
It’s also nearly three times higher than its mid-pandemic July survey of 300 businesses, with only 13 per cent of businesses expecting an IT budget increase.
"The special COVID-19 survey we ran six months ago certainly reflected the uncertainty of the times. As such, I was heartened to see an almost full rebound in our latest report,” said managing director Ben Wood.
A somewhat similar success story was noted with IT hiring intentions, with 26 per cent of businesses expecting to increase their total IT staff numbers — just under the 28 per cent of businesses seen in December 2019 and up from 11 per cent of businesses in July 2020.
In particular, application development and security roles were both the most in demand roles, as well as the most difficult roles to recruit for, during the last year.
Clicks also found an increase of new hires coming straight into the market straight after gaining their qualifications, with the proportion of IT graduate hires, as well as having IT graduate programs in place, both reaching five-year heights.
“In addition to the reported increase in spend and hiring, it is pleasing to see organisations are continuing to invest in the [IT] industry by growing and nurturing talent,” Wood said.
Employers have also been benefiting from higher unemployment rates, with candidates knocking back job offers at an all-time low of 29 per cent, but this could return back to the five-year average of 40 per cent if the market continues its rebound.
This, Wood added, is expected to create “interesting challenges” for hiring strategies, employee attraction and retention programs.
“According to our survey, the most effective retention strategy remains flexibility in all its forms,” he said. “I believe there is a great opportunity for employers to consolidate their learnings from 2020.
“Much was learnt about managing remote workforces. Continuing to offer modern and flexible work practices will ensure an organisation’s ability to retain and attract top talent as the market bounces back and competition for talent increases.
“That flexibility will also assist employers broaden their access to candidates as they are not limited by location.”