Confidence key in times of change

New Zealand workers have proved resilient to change.
New Zealand workers have proved resilient to change.

According to Madison Recruitment's inaugural NZ Employment Market 2016 Report, the one word that summed up last year was: changeable.

It's a word that's often bandied about to represent something positive but, change in a workplace or employment situation can be a stressful rather than exciting prospect. By all accounts, though, Auckland employees adapted and thrived.

"We had fluctuating dollar and milk prices, a booming residential housing market, record inward migration and overseas visitor levels, and huge activity in the building and infrastructure sectors affecting the domestic job market," explains Madison's chief operating officer Steve Jackson.

The workforce also faced threats from "disruptive innovation", which saw dire predictions of the robot economy threatening to render many jobs obsolete. To top it off, new health and safety legislation planned to come into effect in April caused concern for businesses.

"The watchword for candidates and businesses was definitely 'evolve or die'," says Jackson, who believes Aucklanders stepped up to the mark despite the uncertain conditions.

"To thrive, New Zealand needs a workforce of highly resilient 'shapeshifters', who are mobile, agile, and adaptable.

"Kiwis will need to be able to embrace the specialist skills that will allow us to increasingly compete on a world stage."

The ups and downs have inevitably created opportunity, as well as strife. For example, the new health and safety legislation has increased the number of health and safety compliance specialists employed to mitigate the risk the legislation poses.

"We also saw an increase in digital experts as businesses sought measureable ways to engage with their customers," says Jackson. "And, of course, a surge in demand for Chinese speakers, particularly in the banking sector as more Asian banks set up in Auckland."

Once again, the banking sector was making as much profit as possible and growth was seen across all the major banks with banking salaries increasing. Even the introduction of large Asian banks to the New Zealand market has yet to cause any significant disruption.

In terms of employment, Jackson says Auckland is growing at a huge rate, but the pressure on house prices is pushing employment into other areas, such as Hamilton and Tauranga.

"Auckland has a very strange economy and very few countries have one city that is so dominant," says Jackson. "We saw many businesses such as call centres and other industries relocate out of Auckland last year."

Other ways Kiwi companies adapted last year include contact centres recruiting more part-time and temporary staff as they recognised the need to cover peak customer demand.

There has also been a consistent need for experienced change managers within the Human Relations space as regular restructures are now the new normal for many New Zealand businesses.

If you're looking to move out of Auckland or change your industry, Jackson recommends looking into tourism, which has overtaken the dairy industry as New Zealand's top export earner.

"It's projected that 1 million Chinese tourists will come to New Zealand in the next three years," says Jackson. "This has pushed jobs into places such as Queenstown and Rotorua and opened up more employment opportunities."

Another industry tipped to grow is the data industry, because of the blurring line between marketing and IT departments. Recruiters often looking to the IT candidate pool to secure technical expertise in the marketing team. Demand for sales professionals with knowledge on how to sell data-driven solutions also skyrocketed last year.

The technological advances also meant that support roles evolved and broad, multifaceted positions became the norm.

Although the economy, industries and roles changed last year, so too did the way we are working within them, with a notable increase in the registration of well-qualified talent open to short-term engagements, as reported by Madison's executive contracting division.

The report considered that large organisations were still looking to achieve leaner operations, so an emphasis on shared services and removing cost were seen behind the move towards contracting.

Contractors, however, weren't optimistic about market conditions and the report highlights several highly paid, senior contractors who had been considering lesser-paid and lower-level permanent opportunities for the perceived stability on offer.

Net migration put pressure on salary increases as businesses scrambled to employ the most highly skilled candidates. Businesses not only showed they were willing to pay, but also that they were willing to wait for the right personality to join delicate team cultures, placing as much emphasis on attitude as skill sets.

Madison's industrial division, though, struggled to find highly skilled tradespeople in the construction and utilities areas, due in part to the Christchurch rebuild and building boom in Auckland.

"With over $10 billion worth of construction projects planned for Auckland alone in the next 5-10 years, there was a huge increase in demand for project managers, electricians, plumbers and carpenters as some of these projects kicked off," explains Jackson.

"Auckland is very strong right now," says Jackson. "But Kiwis need to stay ahead of the game with regards to rapidly evolving technology. The need to compete in a global market means many businesses are engaging specialist expertise to bring them up to speed."

Change in the workplace has been good for those with specialist knowledge. The challenge will be to anticipate what specialist knowledge will be needed in the future.

- NZ Herald

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