2021 Job Market: Digital Trends, Insights & Salary Guide

2021 is here. And after the year that was 2020, employers, managers and employees across the globe are ready for a new year, a new start and a new outlook. Here’s a look at the top digital trends and emerging skill sets in demand in the Brisbane job market right now.

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We digital-folk are the lucky ones. We fared quite well in comparison to other industries as more people than ever before were forced to adopt the words ‘digital transformation’ into their daily vernacular. The words ‘digital transformation’ were used almost as frequently as ‘unprecedented’ and ‘hand sanitiser’. And as we digital-folk know, once you go digital you never go back.

So what does that mean for our industry? How will this worldwide, overnight shift to the digital stage fundamentally change the landscape for 2021 and beyond? What jobs will be the hottest in the market? Will the demand for digital affect the salaries employees are expecting? And how do you thrive, not just survive, as we head into a brand new year… the year of recovery? Let’s scroll shall we…

Predicting digital trends for 2021 starts with a look back at the year that was 2020 (yes, it was a rollercoaster) to analyse what happened so that we can ask the almighty question ‘where to from here?’

But first things first:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Fix yourself a coffee, tea, beer, scotch… whatever gets the job done

Okay? Are you ready? Let’s do this!

February 2020:

It was a February like any other. We heard whispers about a strange new flu, and toilet paper became the new bitcoin, but our Aussie ‘she’ll be right’ demeanour made us immune to a ‘simple cold’. Oh, we were so young, so naive.

March 2020:

It was a March like no other. Comprised of 63,835 days, it was the month that would never end. Seemingly overnight, lockdown began. It didn’t matter how many times we washed our hands, it was hard to wash off the sense that we were living in a dystopian world where CBDs were as empty as our holiday itineraries.

As a society and industry, we were feeling a sense of denial and anxiety of what was to come. With a number of Queensland heavyweight businesses affected by COVID-19 (Flight Centre and Virgin Australia just to name two), thousands of employees were stood down, sent home and with no solution in sight, a dark cloud set in overhead. From there, a painfully long period of limbo unfolded coinciding with a sharp spike in the sale of jigsaw puzzles, Netflix subscriptions and alcohol. Fitness app subscriptions, online shopping and Bunnings trips also skyrocketed and homeschooling had parents pulling their hair out. Employees lucky enough to do their jobs online quickly adapted to a remote work arrangement with a renewed sense of purpose and appreciation.

During this period, we saw the astronomical importance digital transformation was going to have in this story. Even the most traditional, institutionalised organisations saw the power of remote work with employers reporting record-high levels of productivity.

The word ‘Zoom’ became a verb as much as it was a platform, and we had a window into each other’s homes and lives.

This digital window allowed teams to develop a greater understanding of their team members and get to know the ‘person’ behind the ‘employee’; meeting their colleagues’ children as they ran past yet another Zoom meeting, seeing snippets of people’s homes and ultimately connecting with a more relaxed version of that person without their office armour on. This time was a period of discovery for businesses and individuals alike.

Businesses quickly identified three key areas of opportunity to remain competitive and build a strong business:

  • Unrestricted Talent Pools: If remote work was to continue, organisations were no longer geographically limited to talent, skills and costs in the local market.
  • Power of Automation: The only way to keep up with demand, ensure a flawless and personalised customer journey and increase capacity while keeping workforce lean meant employing the help of automation!
  • Digital Face Lifts: With the entire world online, ensuring the organisation’s entire digital presence and CX was well-executed, on-brand, cohesive and optimised wasn’t a ‘nice to have’, it was a ‘must have’.

*Deep breath*

That’s a lot of change in a short 4-8 week period.

Go fix yourself another drink, we are about to head into April.

April 2020:

As April rolled around, the novelty of remote work had worn off, Zoom fatigue was a diagnosable condition and managers were feeling like a Bachelor in Counselling would have better prepared them to lead their team through a pandemic than their Bachelor of Business.

Employees grew tired of the 3-second commute from their bed to their desk and it felt like that weird period between Christmas and New Year’s Eve where you don’t know what day it is. In a bid to keep business going (and keep their job), employees were burning out!

As the ‘new normal’ set in and everyone was afforded the chance to breathe (courtesy of JobKeeper), employers were wondering how to build rapport with introverted technical team members who don’t enjoy small talk.

Suddenly, those water cooler conversations felt more important than ever, with online meetings becoming increasingly focused on output and tasks as opposed to rapport building.

June 2020:

Come June, for many locations across Australia, particularly Brisbane, restrictions began to ease and a hybrid work arrangement emerged as the preference for both employers and employees. Employees would spend 2-3 days a week at home focused on deep work with the other days spent in the office to collaborate, build rapport and experience that all-important sense of workplace belonging.

The drive for local talent returned to being the preference with remotely-located team members providing an excellent alternative.

A new (financial) year provided everyone with a much-needed opportunity to hit the ‘Reset’ button. As we farewelled the 19/20 financial year and entered 20/21, we saw a flurry of activity. Businesses armed with new forecasts were tired of living in limbo, investors holding onto their coin purses were ready to start investing again and with no end in sight for COVID, employees started sticking their heads up and seeing what else was out there.

Digital Hiring Trends in 2020 | 2021 Job Market: Digital Trends, Insights & Salary Guide | Hunt & Co. | Brisbane's Digital Talent Consultants

Digital Hiring Trends in 2020* *Chart is indicative only.

So where does this leave us?

Opportunistic hiring had taken place throughout 2020 – whether it be an organisation securing candidates who were stood down from full time and contract work, or an increase in portfolio careers as highly qualified digital professionals see heightened demand for their expertise and their risk resilience strengthens.

Candidates retained by their employers have been reluctant to rock the boat by looking for new opportunities. With global uncertainty, a sense of gratitude for their jobs and employers has set in. Our job as headhunters has become about hand-holding, supporting and reassuring candidates that their next move is the right one.

Despite predictions that the world of work would remain an employer’s market for much of 2020 and into 2021, we can now confidently say that in digital and technology, it is once again a candidate’s market.

A maturing startup scene in Brisbane has seen SaaS businesses attract incredible talent as they continue to hire through the COVID uncertainty and grab candidates from the likes of Flight Centre and Virgin who are yet to return to full capacity.

With the explosion of online shopping and at-home fitness apps, we’ve seen an overwhelming demand for eCommerce talent including highly technical eCommerce managers, social ad specialists, and content specialists.

The increase in demand for automation hasn’t necessarily meant a decrease in the size of their workforce, but instead, a shift of the skill sets required.

Companies are now spending more on their CRMs and marketing automation, seeking CRM Managers to set up workflows, engaging Data Analysts to interpret customer behaviour and Customer Journey Specialists to oversee the design of their digital footprint.

Software Developers are still in short supply. In particular, demand is strong for Back-End Developers that have deep knowledge in Node.js and Typescript but are also comfortable on the front end using React.js or Angular.js to build responsive customer interfaces that their design counterparts have created.

UX / UI Specialists are increasingly pressed to upskill with HTML and CSS coding skills and with candidates having a flood of job opportunity choices, this section of the market is becoming increasingly stretched.

SaaS businesses (those that make up the majority of our client base) are seeking UX / UI Specialists with experience in high growth product businesses (like Atlassian or Canva) – a rarity in Brisbane given the maturity of the market.

Mostly, what we are seeing is organisations wanting to get the most ‘bang for their buck’ with every hire they make. They are wanting to find a Jack or Jane of All Trades, that is a master of them all. Businesses are increasingly going to market looking for well-priced unicorns.

Based on the wild ride we’ve all experienced in 2020, we’ve got some predictions of the roles that are going to dominate 2021 here in Brisbane:

  • Digital Project Managers bridging the gap between technical and non-technical stakeholders that can ensure projects get done on time, on budget and on brief.
  • Paid Media Specialists who have expertise in performance advertising across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest and LinkedIn. As more organisations focus on their online presence, they are looking to convert leads into business.
  • CRO Specialists driving lead generation strategies within an organisation’s digital environment, interpreting customer behaviour and optimising business results.
  • eCommerce Integration Specialists ensuring the seamless flow of information as our system requirements become greater.
  • eCommerce Specialists who understand the suite of specific eCommerce software platforms, and how these systems speak to each other, particularly as more brick and mortar stores shift online, and new businesses are capturing commercial retail opportunities.
  • Product Designers (web & mobile) are in demand with experience designing for mobile apps alongside an increase in SaaS companies here in Brisbane.
  • React.js Developers for the hottest front-end language that empowers businesses with responsive user interfaces.
  • Node.js Developers to ensure the back-end runs like a well-oiled machine – keeping everything lightweight and efficient in the world of data-intensive, real-time applications that run across distributed devices.
  • DevSecOps Engineers collaborating with DevOps Engineers to address and eliminate security vulnerabilities during development, ensuring software security is considered throughout the build.
  • In-House Cybersecurity Specialists focusing on companies’ security needs because as digital connectivity grows, so does our cybersecurity vulnerability.

Our goal at Hunt & Co. has always been to work in collaboration with Brisbane-based digital companies to grow and retain happy, high performing and diverse teams! And so, our Digital Salary Guide has been produced to ensure you are up-to-date on what the industry is currently paying for valuable digital talent. Download it now. We hope you enjoy reviewing this guide as much as we enjoyed compiling it for you!

Download Hunt & Co.’s Digital Salary Guide


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