EXECUTIVE RECRUITMENT Touting for Talent – Skills squeeze hits middle management

When we invited the local recruitment market to tell us about executive recruitment in New Zealand, we were deluged with comments from the 11 agencies canvassed.
Clearly, there’s lot to say. However, in marked change to recent years, this year’s responses reveal recruiters are largely in agreement about both the state of the executive recruitment market and what employers and candidates are looking for.
For readers of this article, it delivers cohesive view of traditionally confusing recruitment trends.
The questions we asked followed three main themes – forces affecting the executive job market, what executive candidates and their employers want, and the ongoing role of executive recruitment agencies.

The big picture
The executive recruitment market in New Zealand can only be called “tight”, report recruiters, if you are referring to defined segment of the market. Specifically, this is younger, up-and-coming executives earning somewhere between $60,000 and $100,000. There is dearth of such people in New Zealand and this is what employers mean when they talk about “skills shortages”. At the senior executive end of the market – older, very experienced executives earning in excess of $100,000 – there are simply more quality candidates than suitable positions, say recruiters, and they wish mainstream media would get that right.
Larry Small, managing director of Executive Appointments, says he has observed an oversupply of senior financial executives alongside shortage of middle managers in marketing and sales. Richard Manthel, managing director of Robert Walters, notes there’s more demand for managers at salaries of up to $85,000, because when New Zealand companies expand (which they are) it’s the middle bracket they want.
Laurie Bunting, director for Swann Group, observes that the supply of middle management executive candidates has all but “dried up” which Angeline Long, Albany branch manager for Drake Personnel, attributes to the aging New Zealand workforce.
“There’s been little or no executive recruitment growth in the 20 to 30 age group [this year],” says Long. And Suzi McAlpine, manager accounting and finance for OCG Consulting, says she’s short of candidates for positions between $60,000 and $100,000.
So what’s happening for older senior executives – paid $100,000 plus – with plenty of skill and experience? They’re beginning to return in large numbers from overseas, only to find the New Zealand senior executive market is too small for them, say recruiters. Exacerbating this, senior executives already employed in New Zealand are staying put, partly through the retention efforts of employers, and partly through concern that their age and salary levels will make them less marketable at home – where they want to stay.
According to Kim Smith, senior consultant at Robert Half Finance and Accounting, the accounting sector definitely has more senior candidates than jobs, and because there is growing tendency for organisations to appoint contracted “interim managers” for financial reform or auditing rather than make permanent placement, more senior executives are becoming self-employed and contracting.
Peter Harbidge, general manager for Hudson New Zealand, says the “equilibrium” between the supply and demand of senior executive positions paying more than $120,000, is causing New Zealand senior managers to drift to Australia for work. And Nicola Pohlen, of Pohlen Kean, says mainstream media give senior executives the wrong picture.
“[Yes,] there is shortage of candidates for some functions at the middle executive level, but for more experienced people we have large number to select from who are baffled as to why it takes them long time to find new role,” says Pohlen.
Maurice Ellett, managing director for Executive Search, points out there are two ways to look at “tight” executive recruitment market – shortage of available jobs or shortage of available candidates. Depending on sector and position, Ellett says both kinds of “tight” apply.

Where and why?
So what will happen next year? Will terrorist activities in London bring ex-pat middle executives flocking home en masse? And what will be the long-term effect of using contractors in previously permanent positions?
The “terrorism effect” is one issue on which recruiters are divided. Manthel, who has just returned from recruitment drive in London, argues that New Zealand executives abroad are as ambivalent and philosophical about the London bombing as the majority of English. Drake’s Long agrees, as do Harbidge, Ellett and James Brooke, principal for Gaulter Russell.
“There’s degree of nonchalance about the London terrorism as ‘one off’. Many executives actually return because they do not want to bring their children up overseas,” says Ellett.
Conversely, Small believes executives are bringing their young families home to try to avoid terrorism, and Ian Taylor, managing director for Sheffield Consulting, says terrorism is making New Zealand increasingly attractive for both New Zealanders and overseas nationals.
“Global migration is with us anyway, terrorism or not,” observes Taylor.
This is an important point, because executive migration can go the other way, with increasing numbers of middle managers heading offshore for challenge or more money, and senior managers for permanent work, say recruiters.
For those that stay, interim management – or self-employed executive contracting – is on the rise. Several recruiters note that this has moved beyond finance and engineering roles and employers are beginning to hire interim marketing, business process, communications and HR executives. As result, recruiters are developing interim management divisions, and say the tendency of employers to opt for lower-risk contract executive employees is unlikely to pass any time soon.

Hiring trends
Along with an interest in interim managers, employers are changing the way they have traditionally hired permanent executives, ignoring impressively packed CVs and “safe” experience, in favour of flair, and strategic and emotional intelligence.
According to Robert Half’s Smith, employer expectations of finance candidates have changed “almost beyond recognition”, with ‘soft’ skills and strategy ability now valued as highly as technical expertise.
Smith reports that half the finance executives who respond to Robert Half’s annual accounting and finance survey say they are consulted more for strategic decision making than they were five years ago, and 17 percent report people management skills have become more important. whopping 95 percent say strategic thinking is more important to their role than it was five years ago.
Small reckons the New Zealand employment market is so heavily regulated that weary employers are asking recruiters to carry out exhaustive personality screening processes, in order to avoid costly mistakes; Long says the use of psychometric profiling has increased to the point where it is seen as greater predictor of job success than reference checks.
Hudson’s Harbidge notes that employers are starting to look at ‘wild card’ candidates and psychometric testing is on the rise, while Brooke says employers are looking “holistically” at candidates and realising talent lies in individuals, not backgrounds.
But Ellett perhaps has the most definitive feedback on what employers want. “As one chief executive told us, ‘we work with those we like to work with, not only those technically or commercially skilled’,” says Ellett.

What employers need to do
If employers have wish list, so do candidates. What does it take to entice sought-after executive to jump ship? (In the current market, they are almost always employed.)
The recruiters are unanimous: quality candidates aren’t overly concerned with remuneration – they expect to be well paid by New Zealand standards, and if they’re that motivated by money they’ll work overseas. No, it’s opportunity for growth and personal de

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today

New NZ CEO and COO at FNZ

Global wealth management platform, FNZ, has appointed Jeremy Graham as Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand, and Aroha Steele as the country’s Chief Operating Officer.  The company says in a

Read More »
Close Search Window