Key points for selected Sales and Customer Service Occupations
- In 2015, there were approximately 223,000 persons employed in sales and customer service occupations, representing 11.4% of Ireland’s workforce.
- There were 125,000 persons employed as sales assistants ─ the largest workforce nationally.
- Between 2010 and 2015, overall employment in the selected occupations increased very modestly (by 0.9% on average annually ─ almost identical to the national average rate).
- Over the five year period, there were approximately a net 10,500 additional jobs created.
- In 2015, while employment levels for most occupations were similar to those observed in 2010, the most pronounced increases were observed for customer service occupations (6,500) and sales accounts & business development managers (4,000).
- The largest decreases were for business sales executive, and sales related occupations (approximately 1,500 each).
- Between 2014 and 2015, overall employment expanded by 2.3% (similar to the national average, with a net 5,000 additional jobs created).
- The largest absolute increases were observed for sales assistants (3,000) and sales accounts & business development managers (2,000).
- The largest decrease was observed for business sales executives (2,500).
- Most persons employed in each occupation were aged 25-54; the age profile of employed sales assistants was the youngest amongst the selected occupations, with one quarter aged 15-24.
- Most persons employed in sales and customer services occupations had a higher share with third level qualifications than the national average, with sales assistants the main exception to this with only a 22% share with third level qualifications.
- Almost 70% of persons employed as sales assistants were female, the highest share among the selected occupations and above the national average share; the share was also relatively high for marketing associate professionals, and customer service occupations (with two fifths employed in both groups female).
- Over a half (55%) of all employed sales assistants worked part-time ─ one of the highest shares among all occupations in the national workforce.
- Two fifths of employed sales supervisors were non-Irish nationals (over double the national average).
- The corresponding share was almost one fifth for customer service occupations.
With over 223,000 persons employed, a high volume of exits to inactivity and frequent changes of employer for those in sales-related occupations, it is not surprising that sales-related occupations accounted for 14% of all new hires in 2015. This is reflected in the 7,500 vacancies for sales roles at associate professional level and 9,200 vacancies for sales assistants and customer care roles advertised in May 2016 through the PES and Irishjobs.ie portals alone.
While most of these vacancies were likely due to replacement and turnover demand, expansion demand across all sales roles is expected to continue to increase as the economy, along with both global and domestic sales, recovers.
Sales assistants account for the bulk of those employed in sales-related occupations; employment of many sales assistants is casual in nature.
54% of employment is part-time, over a quarter are aged less than 25, and there is a large volume of transitions in all directions (between employment, unemployment, economic inactivity (mostly study), as well as between and within occupations) and a simultaneous presence of a large number of job seekers and vacancies.
While the transitory nature of employment for sales assistants may not represent an issue for employers, sourcing for management roles in retail may be a greater challenge; however, the availability of business graduates is likely to help in meeting employer requirements in this regard.
Associate professional sales and customer service roles
While those employed as sales assistants work primarily in the wholesale and retail sector, business sales executives and those in customer service occupations are employed across a range of sectors including finance, IT and industry, in addition to wholesale and retail.
Although there are no shortages of sales assistants, shortages of the following sales and customer care skills continue to persist:
- technical and product/service knowledge (e.g. pharmaceutical, medical devices, Software B2B, SaaS products, etc.)
- communication skills, cultural awareness and foreign languages (especially German, French and Nordic).
Despite the third level graduate output of 1,600 from sales and marketing courses at levels 6 and above (HEA and non-HEA sectors), a shortage of marketing experts required to lead product strategy development and management continues to exist.
Associate professional sales, customer service and marketing skills are critical in Ireland’s efforts to increase the global market share for its its exports.
Almost all job announcements in 2015 have sales and/or customer care roles mentioned as part of their overall recruitment requirement (e.g. Apple, Microsoft, Vodafone, Zimmer, indeed.com, Sage, Dairymaster, Slane Distillery, O’Hara’s Brewery, LinenCare).
Proficiency in foreign languages is becoming an important part of the skill set in relation to sales and other roles, with German, French and Nordic languages being most frequently cited as a requirement by both indigenous and multinational companies.