Confidence on rise in job market

By Steve Hart

Report shows hiring intentions remain steady and are highest in the South Island, writes Steve Hart.

Candidates are demanding higher salaries if their skills are in short supply. Photo / Chris Skelton
Candidates are demanding higher salaries if their skills are in short supply. Photo / Chris Skelton

Employers already have an eye on next year, wanting to freshen up their workforce with new talent, according to a report by Robert Walters.

This will lead to a continued upswing in new hires for the rest of the year in Auckland, says the quarterly report's author, Richard Smith, the recruitment firm's manager - sales and marketing.

"Technical marketing candidates with broad commercial experience will continue to be highly sought after, and we may see an increase in hiring for field sales roles within the fast-moving consumer goods market in the lead up to Christmas," he says.

"Commercial managers, pricing specialists, category managers and digital specialists will also be in demand and we may see salary increases for these roles throughout the quarter due to skills shortages."

Smith says employers who engage in lengthy recruitment processes may miss out on high calibre talent.

"There were a few instances during the last quarter where professionals directly approached their competitors for new roles," he says.

"Which indicated that decisions were being made from a commercial perspective as opposed to a sense of loyalty they had previously shown their current employer."

This confidence in the job market is also reflected in a report by Jason Walker, managing director at recruitment firm Hays New Zealand.

The Hays report covers expected recruiting and hiring trends for the October to December 2012 period and shows candidate shortages remain in key areas for skilled and experienced professionals.

"Candidates are demanding higher salaries if their skills are in short supply. Some are even pulling out of interviews at the final stage and changing their salary expectations upon receiving an offer," says Walker.

Like the Robert Walters' report, the Hays survey also found that some employers' expectations were too rigid and the time taken to make a hire is working against them.

"Employers will need to think more laterally in terms of talent acquisition," says Walker. "As New Zealand is a candidate-short market, employers need to be aware that they may have to relax their original specifications. Employers in Christchurch, in particular, need to be more flexible and open to hiring people from overseas."

Despite the positive trend, hiring intentions remained steady, according to recruiter Hudson. People in jobs are also working harder and longer hours.

A survey by the firm found more than half of employers (59.1 per cent) intend to keep staffing levels steady, while 31.3 per cent hope to employ more people.

"Consumer confidence, a key driver for business and employment growth, has inched higher," says Roman Rogers, executive general manager, Hudson New Zealand.

"While confidence isn't strong and shows some caution, it is moving in the right direction which is being reflected in hiring intentions."

The Hudson report shows hiring intentions in the South Island are the highest in New Zealand (up 3.1 per cent) with many organisations in Canterbury trying to maintain their business-as-usual activities, while increasing resources to supplement rebuild activities.

It also says companies are hiring more contractors in the areas of administration, finance and project management.

Rogers says industries with the most positive hiring intentions include government, education and financial services, and insurance. Meanwhile information, communication and technology exhibit the most positive hiring intentions among professions surveyed, with particularly high demand for project managers, business analysts and testers.

Another positive sign is October's Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index that has recovered over the third quarter to sit at 98.9, the same as in March. However, that still leaves the index the second lowest since the trough of the recession in mid-2009. The index stood at 150 in June 2007.

The Westpac report says improvements in employment confidence reflect slightly brighter expectations for the year ahead. In particular, there has been a jump in perceived job security - to the highest since mid-2011.

"This may reflect the fact that some of the uncertainty around the global economy has eased since the European Central Bank pledged to do 'all that it takes' to keep the eurozone from breaking apart.

However, it says, "Households continue to see nationwide job opportunities as very limited".

It may be that people trapped in a job and unable to easily switch to a new employer, are the ones reported to be bordering on burnout in the Hudson report.

It found that more than 30 per cent of employees are working more than 51 hours a week, with more than a quarter (26.2 per cent) saying they are working longer hours than they were a year ago.

"Many businesses are 'flying while they build the plane', says Rogers. "Balancing business-as-usual and project commitments can be tricky - employees are exposed to great work and opportunities, but it also means they are working harder and longer.

"Many employees are prepared to do this. However, there is often not much, if any, downtime between projects to recharge, which can lead to burnout.

"Often the qualities needed to be successful in a project-driven context are different compared to a business-as-usual environment. With projects, success depends on employees' cognitive ability and behavioural traits.

"There is an increased risk of employee burnout if projects are not managed effectively.

In fact, 29.6 per cent of employers are experiencing increased employee burnout. Better clarity around role and delivery expectations is viewed as a key way to address this problem."

Rogers says employers need to think about what they are trying to achieve and what blend of skills and behaviours they need to be successful.

"Every hire is an investment," he says. "If employers want to maximise their return then they need to invest in an effective, consistent recruitment process that goes beyond reviewing technical skills and reference checking.

"They need to be clear about what constitutes success in a role and which skills, competencies and behaviours are needed."

Steve Hart is a freelance reporter at SteveHart.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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