It’s an employee’s market for sure in Poland. According to data from the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy, in February the unemployment rate was 8.7 percent, one of the best results ever since the political transformation.

Like every market, the labour market seeks a balance between supply and demand. Historical figures on unemployment in our country show that the last quarter century has seen the situation change dramatically. In January 1990, when the political changes had not really yet begun, unemployment affected 0.3 percent of Poles. That rate, unachievable in a market economy, quickly came to be corrected. By December of the same year there were more than a million unemployed, and three years later almost twice as many as that. The worst was in 2003, when one out of five Poles was looking for a job. Today, the rate is less than one in ten.

Such rapid changes are difficult for human resources specialists to cope with. Our market is affected by policy, technological development, trends, and even such unpredictable factors as the weather.

Together, all of these mean that in 2017 employers face a more difficult situation than 15 years ago.

The effect of scale favours specialists

On the labour market for specialists, it’s even more evident that it’s an employee’s market. Experts from Spring Professional increasingly admit that it’s hard to find the right person, especially for managerial positions and those requiring specialised knowledge.

In the case of such employees, the phrase employee’s market is inadequate. In industries such as logistics and IT, it’s a dictatorship. Employers are bending over backwards to dream up ever more interesting benefits for programmers, and salaries keep going up and up.

Our specialists also track such markets segments as logistics, finance, IT, sales and marketing, construction, production and pharmaceuticals. Each of these is experiencing a lack of specialists, though for completely different reasons.

IT – there’s only one king

Our analyses show that the phenomenon of the employee’s market is particularly evident in the IT industry. In Poland today, there is a shortage of more than 50,000 programmers, which is why employers will be fighting tooth and nail over specialists – and even over students who will only be graduating in several years. The brightest lights are sucked out of the market by global giants like Google and Facebook, who offer work at much higher salaries and in much more prestigious environments, often in Silicon Valley itself.

“In Poland we have ideal conditions for growth in the IT industry. Our programmers are extremely well trained and capable, while the relatively low labour costs and cost of living mean we’re able to compete on price,” notes Bartosz Hojnacki, a consultant at Spring Professional responsible for IT recruitment. “That’s why Polish companies are growing in force, and snapping up more and more specialists.” Supply is not keeping up with demand, and so astronomical salaries and increasingly sophisticated employee benefits have become the norm.

At Spring Professional, we’ve noted for some time now that programmers are not much concerned about money, since practically every employer offers similar, inflated remuneration. Competition is over benefits and less measurable elements of the job such as distance from home to office, or the opportunity to work on more ambitious, more interesting projects.

Among Polish IT companies there is no lack of those that let their employees bring their pet to work, provide them with an internal café, or impose no limit and working from home.

It would be wrong, though, to think that only IT specialists can wrangle such benefits out of their employers.

Finance after shock therapy

IT industry specialists and engineers are perceived as those who deal the cards on the labour market, but in fact, in terms of the number of offers published, the financial industry beats them heads down. Data from the portal show that banks and other financial institutions published twice as many job offers as do companies looking for programmers.

“The spectacular demise of Lehman Brothers and the crisis it sparked in 2007 threw a bucket of cold water on the industry,” comments Barbara Echaust, who at Spring deals with recruiting the most highly qualified financial specialists. “Luckily, after that shock therapy, there was a revitalisation and new vigour, which we can see, for example, in the Polish financial industry.”

In that industry, what really makes an impression is remuneration. A financial director can earn as much as 50,000 zlotys monthly, which is an astronomical sum compared to other industries.

“Such high salaries are due to the specific nature of the financial industry, where what counts most is experience – which even the best, most prestigious schools cannot replace,” Barbara Echaust explains.

Such rapid growth in the need for financial specialists is also because of growth in the BPO/SCC industry in Poland. The industry is opening up to new, inexperienced employees, which was not the case several years ago. At the same time, working for a global giant is a chance for experienced specialists to achieve extremely high earnings.

Sales is starving

Two variables are making it an employee’s market – the record-low unemployment rate, and the large number of job offers available. Increasingly, though, employers are looking hard for people but not finding them. This is especially evident in the sales and marketing industry.

“Every company needs salespeople, and the beginning of the year is full of offers for them. But not every recruitment ends with someone being hired,” says Anna Sidoruk, responsible at Spring Professional for recruiting sales specialists. “A salesperson must know the specifics of the industry he works in. A company selling advanced heating systems won’t hire a salesperson from FMCG, because that person won’t be able to handle the duties. They simply won’t have the knowledge of their subject.”

Given the increasingly fierce competition and the growth of domestic companies, the need for salespeople is sure to keep increasing. And so the best in their profession can expect to be flooded with offers from other companies, and can command very high salaries.

Two-speed construction

Not all industries, though, have experienced uninterrupted growth and success. This is clearly visible in the challenges faced by the construction industry.

The sector had anticipated big tenders in 2016 and a peak of work at the turn of 2017/18. But there’s plenty to show that it will only happen at the turn of 2018/19, or even 2019/2020 according to the most pessimistic forecasts.

“The delay has caused a wave of group layoffs and – as is completely natural in such a situation – an adjustment of hiring plans,” comments Joanna Kowalczyk, a team leader at Spring Professional responsible for recruiting specialists in the construction sector. The decline in the rate of orders from the public sector, while certainly painful for the industry, does not immediately mean there is a crisis.

“The construction industry as a whole is doing very well at the moment,” our expert adds. “We’ve seen a large number of orders, for both commercial and trade facilities, and this has caused growth in the need for employees, and interesting changes in the level of managerial staff.

“A perfect example of this revival of the commercial real estate market is the construction of office buildings. More buildings are going up in Gdansk, Katowice, Lodz, Krakow and Wroclaw, and so there is a growing need for specialists in this segment of the market. This entails looking for experienced, qualified staff from the most difficult source – directly from competitors.

“Getting to those employees requires a huge amount of time, yet for specialists whose knowledge is hermetical, in many cases it isn’t the only way,” our expert indicates.

Phantom over industry

A litmus test of the condition of industry as a whole is the production sector. This is an industry that offers employment to both high-earning specialists and workers having only low qualifications and no experience whatsoever.

Data from the portal show that, in 2016, 8.8 percent more production sector job offers were published than in the previous year. For light industry, the rate was even higher, 15.6 percent. This situation results in increased pressure to raise salaries.

“Though at the moment production is thriving, the threat of automation and mass layoffs from technological unemployment is hanging over the industry like the sword of Damocles,” explains Paulina Chojnacka, an expert at Spring Professional handling recruitment for the production industry. “Just a few years ago, you could put forecasts about people losing their factory jobs to robots up on the shelf next to plans for travelling to Mars. Now, at the beginning of February the news came out that a Chinese factory has replaced 90 percent of its workers with robots, and its output has gone up by 250 percent.

While technological unemployment is temporary by nature, with people sooner or later finding other work, the moment of change itself is full of worry and uncertainty. For this reason, it’s worth keeping a close eye on the progress being made in automation.

Logistics – the circulatory system of the economy

There’s a certain parallel between the situation in production and that of logistics. At the moment, specialists in both industries have no cause to complain, yet both industries may be subject to automation, which could deprive many employees of work. Very advanced tests of automatic cars are already under way. Unlike live drivers, such cars will not take leave, will be able to drive 24 hours a day, and will never exceed the speed limit.

“For now, though, long-term trends indicate that employment in the TLS industry will continue to grow,” says Piotr Rejnowicz, our logistics industry expert. “It’s funny that, in the context of vehicle automation, the industry is suffering from a severe shortage of drivers.”

The Spring Professional expert underscores that it’s an employee’s market throughout the industry, with the exception of maritime shipping, which has been having troubles for some time.

“Shipowners are suffering from an oversupply of tonnage, with the resulting drop in freight rates,” Rejnowicz says. “This is a huge challenge when you add growing port fees, and you end up with smaller players caving in and a lot of consolidations.”

One of the specifics of the market is that positions at various employers are identical. Employees simply change their place of work, while their duties remain the same. As a result, competition is enormous, and employees are decreasingly influenced by salary. What is decisive is factors such as distance from home and benefits packages. A lot depends as well on a company’s brand, personal sympathy, and the opinion of acquaintances.

Not an employee’s market in pharmacy

An analysis conducted by Spring Professional shows that the only market on which we cannot confidently state that employees dictate conditions is the pharmaceutical market.

There, the employees with the best prospects are those who have IT and medical technologies skills under their belt. Telemedicine and designing medical services using the latest technologies also hold out a lot of promise for growth.

“But it would be a mistake to think that’s enough. The key to success is to combine those competences with soft skills, such as working on a team and resolving disputes,” explains Ewelina Małko, a specialist in recruiting talent from the pharmaceutical industry. “To attract employees who have all those traits, companies are willing to break the standard budget for remuneration.”

While the market is not as hungry for specialists as other industries, Polish pharmaceuticals have other advantages. Given Poland’s geographical location and strong position on the market, Polish specialists have an open road to a career at the European level, for example as a regional manager.

“That means a totally new level of earnings and professional challenges. At that level you have to compete not just locally, but with specialists from around the world – but the stakes are high, and at the European level Poles are increasingly making a mark for themselves.”

New times, new challenges

Our experts agree that times are tough for employers. An added challenge is that of enormous mutability. Technologies are advancing, and altering the economic and social landscape.

That’s why at Spring Professional we must draw on our experience and the knowledge accumulated in our organisation, yet continually question our assumptions, and seek new solutions, new models.

Gone are the days of easy recruitment, when the biggest problem after publishing a job offer was reading through hundreds of CVs – not attracting talent. Gone as well are the days of luring employees with the prospect of a pay rise. That’s why, as often as they need help finding employees, employers need business consulting – and as an international player present for years on the Polish market, we are there to provide it.

Data for the payroll report were obtained from 10,000 candidates and employees and 250 clients of Spring Professional during actual recruitment processes conducted throughout 2016. The amounts given are for gross monthly remuneration for a given full-time position. The whole report is available at

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