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A look back on recent NZ hiring, business and candidate trends
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As we enter a new decade, uncertainty seems to be the only certainty. Just as China and the US signed phase one of its trade deal, we have the Coronavirus to contend with. Just when business confidence is up domestically, we have an election year where all manner of new economic and employment policies could be proposed. Technological change is increasing but perhaps not as fast as we all thought at first in a small market like NZ.
As recruiters, one of the most common questions we’re asked is, “So how’s the market?”
Here is my overview of how we found recruitment and the wider market in 2019.
In 2019, we saw a few key changes within the hiring market, driven by an exacerbation of the talent shortage.
Flexibility is now considered a norm rather than a benefit, and employers are recognising the importance of being accommodating around childcare, family responsibilities, travel, and life outside of work. This is often repaid by greater employee loyalty, with people unlikely to leave companies who look after them in all aspects of their lives. This is also a key trend with younger job seekers: the expectation that work is compatible with life, not in conflict with it.
Businesses are increasingly becoming open to international candidates possessing strong global experience, though they lack a local name on their CV. When I started in recruitment in 2015, it was near impossible for people to get their foot in the door in the NZ market at a level commensurate with their experience. However, businesses have recognised the talent they’re able to tap into, especially when people come from markets with more advanced supply chain, logistics and procurement practices than our own.
In late 2019, there were a few big visa changes announced that will be rolling out over the next couple of years. It’s too soon to see what the impact of these will be, however, they look likely to make it even harder to employ great talent in that mid-level part of the market.
Companies are also looking to retain their teams through greater upskilling, on-the -job training, and career mapping. Employers often believe the driving force behind people leaving their roles is salary, however a key driver is opportunity to develop their skills and knowing what their next career step will be. Some of the businesses we work with actually have dedicated career planning teams, some are putting their entire technical teams through NZPICS and others are prioritising developing and promoting their internal staff rather than replacing straight from market.
In 2019, a big takeaway was the increase of temporary and contract roles in the market. There are a number of reasons for this including: the removal of the 90-day trial law, a recognition that not adding some additional resource during busy times can overload the current team and trigger resignations, project managers to lead the afore-mentioned projects, or BAU managers to keep things running while existing employees are seconded to run projects as part of their development.
Trending skillsets in demand by businesses have been Engineers with automation experience, Planners with strategic S&OP and true business partnering skills, and Strategic Procurement obtaining value in ways that aren’t just spend reduction, along with ethical sourcing and procurement with a wider social-good element.
The most in-demand roles have been Quality, Engineering and Production Managers, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Warehouse Supervisors, Export and Import Operators, Purchasing Officers, and Demand and Production Planners.
Towards the end of 2019, there was a notable lack of a slow-down period, with many businesses seeing no dip in volume or pace over the Christmas and New Year period, which is very much in breaking with the Kiwi shutdown that used to occur.
Although the longer-term trend is that people are no longer spending decades in the same role, in 2019 we did see a slow-down in people looking to leave their current companies. This may be due to ‘doom and gloom’ headlines about recession and restructures causing people to hunker down where they are, combined with businesses increasing their efforts to retain and reward their current teams. Regardless, the impact is that it is getting harder and harder to find good talent.
People are no longer leaving their employers for like-for-like roles and salaries, there must be a strong value proposition and often employers need to sell the role and the business to candidates – not just the other way around. Job seekers are also spending less time on job boards applying to roles, while being passively open to opportunities though not actively looking.
Key drivers for people looking to move on were culture and environment, utilisation and development of their skillsets, better opportunity and with Auckland traffic, of course, location can play a big part. Notably, it’s no longer just about salary and benefits.
The year that was
It was clear that in 2019, businesses saw that the world hadn’t ended, and worst-case scenarios hadn’t played out yet. Last year, we saw business continue to invest in new sites, extending and/or upgrading existing facilities for warehousing and manufacturing, automation, equipment and ERP systems.
There were a few changes of ownership and structure with some of the large players in the market, however new roles are still being created, and in 2019, roughly half of all roles we recruited were additional headcount as opposed to replacements.
The sectors we saw continuing to do well were FMCG, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, dairy and agribusiness, and packaging. Logistics in particular has been a shining light, with plenty of new entrants into the market. There could be challenges ahead though, with the movement towards green shipping already pushing up container prices considerably. Although some parts of the construction and infrastructure market slowed as key projects wound down, recent spending announcements look to reignite this sector.
Following the year that was 2019, I’m excited for the change and opportunity that 2020 heralds.
Brittany Raleigh is Manager of Supply Chain, Procurement, Logistics, Engineering & Manufacturing at Michael Page. Contact her at [email protected]