Recruitment The Best Execs – and what they are looking for

The good news for organisations that have focused on building good employment brands is simply that – it works.
The best candidates are being drawn to enterprises that have signalled their commitment to providing people-centred environment. In recruitment market that is still largely candidate driven, job seekers are increasingly after challenge, career development options, flexibility and work/life balance.
Money is not necessarily the main attractor, says Suzi McAlpine, financial services manager at OCG Consulting in Auckland.
“The so-called soft factors – good culture, great place to work, flexibility – are becoming more important. It gives those companies that have good employee brand an edge in terms of being able to both woo and keep the best candidates.”
Heather Kean, director of Pohlen Kean, agrees that the need for work/life balance is definitely part of the equation. “People are looking for career development – all the challenge and growth you’d expect of higher performers – but they also want balance. So they’re looking for stronger mix across those two things. They don’t expect to pay career price for having work/life balance but they want to be able to have time to commit to family – the whole of life area.”
More executives, particularly those over 45, want good work/life balance “They want to ensure they maintain their obligations to the personal life and to their work,” says Signium International chief executive Maurice Ellett, and that can include choosing job on the basis of its geographic location. “Salary is less significant, as long as the executive does not have to go backwards in remuneration,” he adds.
The desire for balance applies particularly to male candidates, says Sheffield managing director Ian Taylor. “More men are after roles that allow them to have better work/life balance – that image of male breadwinner who is divorced from his family life is lot less evident.”
Work/life balance is definitely on the wishlist – along with challenge, stretch, and acknowledgment, says Peter Harbidge, Australasian practice manager for TMP/Hudson.
“A lot look for it but there’s not so many who are good at putting it into practice. Top candidates tend to work long hours anyway.”
Taylor thinks companies providing an employee-friendly environment are prospering in the job market. “It can be fine line getting the balance right, but when they do, it has immeasurable benefits and employees appreciate it.”
According to Kean, organisations that have been working to build an employment brand in the marketplace are selling that story lot more effectively and reaping the benefits.
“We’re certainly seeing that clients who have built really strong profile around their attractiveness as an employer are finding it much easier to attract talent than those that haven’t.”
One of the ways organisations are making themselves more attractive to executives is to have “a collegial, harmonious working environment where integrity, trust, open sharing of information and personal respect for executives, both as individuals and for what they contribute to the organisation, are recognised”, according to Ellett.
Executive Appointments (EAL) director Larry Small offers Auckland City as an example of an organisation that has bene-fited from its employer-friendly branding.
“It’s now seen as more attractive employer. Local government provides good training opportunities and employees are becoming more mercenary in the sense that they are looking at development opportunities that will provide personal benefit,” he says.
“They want to know things like: is the organisation committed to training and does it have the resources to provide that training? If I leave in few years, how enriched am I as an employee to re-enter the market?”
Training and development is huge issue, says Kim Smith, general manager of Robert Half International. She arrived from the United States 18 months ago and thinks New Zealand is not particularly money-driven country, so remuneration is not such big deal for those seeking leadership roles. “It’s more to do with who is going to mentor me or what is the progression path and what will future opportunities be after I’ve performed in this role for 18 months to two years?”
Candidates tend to take more deliberate approach to career development and will move sideways or even backwards to join the leading companies, ones that have the brands and resources that will benefit their careers, says Small. That tends to disadvantage some of the smaller companies which are finding it bit hard to compete with corporates that can offer greater career potential and more structured training.

Gaps in the market
The talent shortage shows up mainly at mid-career levels – what one consultant describes as the “work-horse” stage – or the 26-35 age group/$50,000-$100,000 salary bracket.
That’s partly demographics, according to Sheffield’s Taylor. “It’s due to an aging workforce – also the roles at this level are probably becoming more complex because of needs around globalisation and international experience. The pool of talent with those sorts of skills is quite small, so there’s some pressure in that middle area.”
The gaps in the market fall in the 35-45 age range and “have done for the past 30 years”, adds Ellett. They are, he says, chief executives in the $150,000 to $250,000 income range who understand the business drivers, have an empathetic, positive management style, the energy to inspire others, enthusiasm and commercial acumen.
“Unfortunately many in the 55-65 age range don’t have the same overt physical energy, passion and enthusiasm that attracts them to the business in today’s competitive market,” says Ellett. “Their knowledge, their experience and their wisdom are respected and valued and they may be appointed to new roles but the skill sets of the younger executives too often hold sway because of their personal chemistry, charisma and longer term career prospects.”
Other recruiters, like Smith, say there is greater depth at the more senior end of the talent pool but opportunities dwindle at the high end of the market. “That senior level is the only one where there are more candidates than jobs. We specialise in finance and accounting, so maybe it’s not the case in other areas. But many roles at that level have unfortunately moved offshore,” says Smith.
Swelling both the mid and senior level talent pool are an increasing number of good offshore candidates – both new migrants and returning Kiwis.
“Quite often senior executives are returning to New Zealand for lifestyle options – and they’re giving up some pretty big packages to do it. I think there is bit of reverse brain drain going on,” says OCG’s McAlpine.
Harbidge agrees. “We’ve had number of New Zealanders coming back from the UK with some great experience under their belts – and they’re eminently place-able. I think we’re also seeing more homogenous global market and greater acceptance in New Zealand of candidates from other parts of the world.”
While some recruitment consultants think immigrants are being made more welcome in the job market, Ellett is not convinced. He thinks New Zealand companies have an “underlying xenophobia” and executives coming in from overseas find it hard to compete with local applicants. But, he adds, this is tempered by the need to recruit expertise from abroad. “In the past five years 70 percent of clients have required our searches include overseas candidates.”

And the money?
Remuneration levels are not so much holding up as creeping up. Supply-and-demand has them climbing faster in some areas than others. And as Ellett points out using the Telecom example as case in point, there is push for greater incentivisation linked to increases in economic value add (EVA). “Remuneration levels creep up but so do the demands [of employers],” he says. “Many executives still find each year delivers harder business environment, as more is demanded from them

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