AN INCREASING number of employers in Singapore are willing to make counter-offers to their staff to retain their services, according to the latest Hays Quarterly Report.

Over the past few months, the number of vacancies has been steadily increasing. Rising vacancy activity naturally leads to a spike in candidate interest, particularly from quality passive candidates who keep an eye on the market, said a spokesman from Hays, a global specialist recruiter.

Many employers are aware of the skill shortages but take it for granted that their staff will remain loyal. Unless they have communicated career development plans clearly, employees are likely to question their future and begin to explore the rising number of opportunities in the market.

If you are an employer with a strong talent pool, this means you need to do everything you can to retain your team members before they seek or attract interest from outside the business.

Counter-offers are on the rise. This trend is likely to continue over the next 12 months as employers fight to retain their key talent.

Employers will be looking to recruit people with the following skills:

* Accountancy and finance: Candidates with strong international regulatory experience are in high demand as are internal auditors and product controllers.

Within commerce and industry, the main area of demand is in the retail and FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) sectors. Professional services firms are also ramping up their hiring activities and there are more opportunities within corporate finance.

The property and construction sectors are actively hiring finance managers, business development managers and project managers.

* Banking: Settlement candidates with good derivatives product knowledge are in demand due to the migration of such roles from Europe to Singapore. There is also high demand for experienced project managers and business analysts with specific product knowledge.

Operational risk and compliance professionals with solid relevant experience in the region are in continued demand, especially at mid- and senior levels, given the heightened regulatory environment.

* Construction: The civil and infrastructure sector is recovering quickly, fuelled by the underground rail network and continuing work on the Circle and Downtown MRT Lines. Specific senior positions are still highly sought on a needs basis. From a contractor’s perspective, the emphasis is on local experience.

* Finance technology: Java, C++ and C# developers are in high demand for work on projects to build in-house low latency, high frequency real-time trading systems.

The market and credit risk areas of investment banks are also in need of extra resources as the need to integrate risk systems into emerging markets continues. Adding to this is the demand for more bespoke solutions around obtaining real-time data feeds.

* Information technology: A number of large-scale projects have resulted in the demand for strong technical candidates, particularly within the banking, telecom and energy sectors. Candidates with more than five years of experience in Oracle, Java, C# and .Net are also in demand. There are a variety of roles available, including developers and project managers.

* Oil and gas: Singapore continues to strengthen its reputation as a premier location for FPSO (floating, production, storage and offloading) conversions as well as for building offshore support vessels.

These niche areas are both busy as more exploration projects are put back on the agenda following the recession.

There is a steady increase of recruitment activity in both the marine and shipping sectors. Experienced EPC (engineering, procurement and constructions) and design personnel are also in high demand.

* Pharmaceutical: There has been a noticeable increase in the number of bio-manufacturing positions, which stems from continued inward investment in the area.

Abbott Nutrition’s recently opened powder plant has played a large role. Many more companies are planning on doing the same over the next year or so to take advantage of economies of scale and reduced costs per hire.

* Property: Project managers as well as facilities managers are needed to assist large multinational companies move from their existing buildings to brand new buildings.

Candidates in high demand for these roles are those with more than six years’ experience in a project management or facilities management role in Singapore, ideally delivering commercial interior or data centre projects for a large corporate, banking or IT space.

* Sales and marketing: Firms across many industries are confidently investing in sales and marketing talent. There is a common focus on professionals that will have an immediate and measurable impact on the firm’s bottom line.

As a result, frontline sales executives with a solid track record and good industry contacts continue to be in high demand.

With the FMCG industry, companies are investing heavily in their brand and product management. This is set to continue for the remainder of 2010.