The rapid pace of change in the work environment is the overriding feature affecting the current and future employment market, according to a new report by Madison Recruitment.
The accelerating development of digital technology, flexible work programmes bringing high demand for temporary staff, and some skill sets in desperately short supply are some of the trends outlined in Madison's 2017 NZ Employment Market Report.
Madison is New Zealand's largest recruitment company - last year filling more than 5600 roles and employing around 1000 temporary workers and contractors weekly on client sites around the country.
"This gives us access to the real-time market information, salaries and trends that have enabled us to compile this employment market report," says chief operating officer Steve Jackson.
The Auckland property and construction boom is causing employment consequences further afield, particularly in the Waikato region. "Waikato provides good levels of housing affordability and transport links are rapidly improving," says Jackson. "When you combine that with growth in agri-technology, logistics and manufacturing opportunities, the Waikato labour market is likely to experience significant growth in the next few years."
Unemployment rates are low and workforce participation has reached an all-time high, mainly due to positive economic conditions and net migration breaking records.
"This means we're experiencing almost universally strong labour demand, so identifying and recruiting key talent has proved challenging over the past year,". says Jackson. He says some skill sets are in extremely short supply, with candidates in possession of those skills able to command premium remuneration levels.
A consequence of the rapid pace of change is increased pressure on programmes of work.
"To succeed, businesses need to respond quickly to the ever-changing digital landscape," says Jackson, "and this has brought about an increased demand for interim talent across all industries, along with requirements for project management capability to manage the programmes. This shows no sign of abating and will be an ongoing trend for a number of years."
Auckland's large number of infrastructure improvement projects is continuing to impact on the temporary and contract labour market. As government and private organisations ramp up their capacity to successfully manage increasing numbers of customer queries, Madison has seen an estimated 15 per cent more temporary customer service roles available.
Jackson says the blurring of skills between one discipline into another is a continuing trend.
"The increasing prevalence of the Chief Digital Officer highlights the convergence of traditional IT and Marketing roles. We're also noticing this crossover in other areas, like Data Analysis, which increasingly sits across different functions within an organisation." He says crossover can add a welcome new challenge to a role, but also makes it more difficult to master.
"Sideways movement provides opportunities for candidates but also adds to the complexity of the working experience."
One of the major industries to impact on the labour market is, of course, Information Technology.
"With a CDO leading technology, IT has come to forefront of the business rather than acting as a service division," notes Jackson.
"In the last few years, we've seen traditional 'big' players begin to see their market share usurped by leaner, faster, more innovative competitors. However, some larger organisations have been surprisingly quick to compete - they've adopted a bimodal approach to development, allowing for agile teams, rapidly developed new products and swift introduction to market. We've seen this primarily in organisations where the shift has been made away from a Chief Informatio Chief Technical Officer model to allowing a CDO to lead technology."
Jackson says over the past year, much IT hiring activity has tended to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. "We've seen unceasing demand for first and second level systems support engineers. Organisations were predominantly on the lookout for Microsoft skills, but there were significant numbers of Linux requirements."
However, salaries have remained low in these starting positions, which Jackson says can be largely attributed to immigration. "It's certainly a factor, as these roles tend to be filled by those looking for their first full-time role after completing studies in New Zealand. This keeps salary expecttions in the $50 to $60k range and for graduates, $45k, which hasn't changed for a number of years."
However, at the higher end in the Auckland region, IT consultancy roles such as business intelligence, human capital management, finance and agile coaching all commanded salaries of $130,000 or more last year.
"There was also a lot of activity for roles such as data and software solution architects where salaries sit in the $130 to $180k range," says Jackson. "Another area with significant movement at the senior end has been for software sales roles. As a great indicator of market confidence, salaries were robust and we've seen roles with on-target earnings of up to $170k."
That pressure this year will come in the intermediate range because "good people will be at a premium. The market is buoyant and talented candidates will have multiple opportunities, so we expect salaries to nudge upwards."
"Culture fit" has often been at the forefront of discussions at Madison in the past year. "It is important - organisations ask for it, consultants recruit for it, and yet it's elusive.
"Good culture fit is definitely something to aim for -- it's associated with positive benefits such as greater job satisfaction for the employee, and for the business it brings higher commitment and increased tenure. But it has come to mean many different things, and there is a clear risk to business when culture fit becomes something more akin to a personality fit.
"When we hire someone 'like us' and put the focus on 'getting along', the result over time will be a workforce with a lack of diversity."
To avoid this, Jackson suggests developing a set of core values making up cultural fit, then welcoming a diverse range applicants to assess against that benchmark.