Salaries remain static as businesses focus on growth

New Zealand employers in 2012 are not in the mood for taking risks when hiring new staff, according to the newly published Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2012.

Local companies want to see clear, traceable evidence that candidates have improved the fortunes of their organisations before making the decision to hire. They are looking for business analysts who have been involved in restructuring their organisations.

In the cases of corporates, if possible, new hires should have international experience and will have worked on bigger businesses overseas giving them new ideas and solutions for their New Zealand operations.


People who are a "no-brainer hire", can be hired very fast. "Companies move very quickly when they find the right person," says Richard Manthel, managing director, of Robert Walters NZ.

Meanwhile with few executives receiving raises in 2010, in 2011 the majority received a wage increase in line with the Consumer Price Index. In some cases, star performers were given an additional bonus or above standard salary increase to ensure their retention.
"There's no real pressure to increase salaries," says Manthel. "With the economy not growing, we are not creating the demand that pushes salaries up."

For those who had "a very commercial set of eyes and a proven track record", and a specific set of skills companies were looking for, they have achieved competitive salaries in 2011.

"It doesn't matter if you are a lawyer, a PA, a call centre operator, an HR manager or a CIO, the people in there demanding the salaries, have a very strong track record and they can prove their ability," says Manthel.

Last year saw a number of peaks and troughs in the job market. When large influxes of accounting and finance ex-pats arrived in the first quarter and third quarter last year, the latter coinciding with the Rugby World Cup, a number of them became the subject of multiple job offers and bidding wars, according to Robert Walters.

"This is going to continue because there's a lack of people who come back from overseas generally," says Manthel. Kiwis who have been overseas for one to five years overseas and have corporate experience are at a premium, he says.

A lot of New Zealand's big corporates are looking for people with corporate experience from larger markets overseas, he says. "They have been involved in a top tier organisation abroad, are used to working in these sorts of corporate structures, and have also got very specific experience and very analytical skills."

With business confidence dropping during the latter part of 2011 due to the financial troubles in Europe, New Zealand businesses are looking at how they can add extra value, shore up their businesses and take them forward in better shape. "They need people who can analyse the business, who have been there, restructured companies before, and can come in and assist senior management."

A targeted type of recruitment activity has been seen right across the board in 2011, in banking and finance, sales and marketing, HR, IT and business support. In sales and marketing, companies trying to increase revenues and grow their market share, have been looking for people who are very focused on business and strategic development and are able to find new markets.

"People out there are targeting candidates from an income management perspective. People capable of developing new products or services, will be in demand this year," says Manthel.

The IT market has been one of the healthiest sectors in the recruitment market during 2011. According to Tom Derbyshire, the Robert Walters Auckland manager of IT recruitment, it's not necessarily big projects that are keeping IT specialists busy, it's more that organisations are needing help tidying up their systems to make them more efficient.

The upsurge in IT recruitment during 2011 happened initially in the financial services sector. IT engineers, developers and support roles were in demand in the first half of the year, while in the latter half there was more activity in the project space with project managers, business analysts and testers needed by the market. "Insurance companies are replacing out of date systems, doing anything to help be competitive," says Derbyshire.

There is confidence in the market on IT spending because New Zealand is perceived as being protected by the Asia Pacific regional economy, he says. Companies are confident about spending the money on projects that will save money around efficiency.

This comes back to the general theme in the Robert Walters survey that people are in demand who have very commercial skills, says Manthel. They can come into an organisation and identify a "hands-on" drive to help efficiency by replacing systems.

Clients are looking for candidates to be up to speed with the latest techniques from candidates, who can be business analysts and project managers, says Derbyshire. International candidates who have worked on large transformation projects, dealing with the latest technology, are strong contenders.

"Those coming in from overseas have so many different ideas, New Zealand candidates who tend to move around, all have the same ideas," says the Robert Walters Auckland IT recruitment manager. There is also demand for expertise in the digital space, people who know how to extract value on the internet, who can help develop Search Engine Optimisation, adds Manthel.

Salaries in the IT sector are expected to rise in 2012, according to the Robert Walters survey as the market becomes progressively "candidate short" and both salaried staff and contractors have multiple job opportunities.

Manthel's advice to ambitious New Zealanders working in any area of business, is to develop their careers to the point where they have got a proven track record. Where they can say: "I have done this, you can verify that by talking to this person."

"It's important that people show they have been part of something," says Manthel.

* The salary survey is available in full at: