Economic confidence slowly translates into stronger hiring as employers focus on cost containment rather than investing in headcount to support future growth
Reversing the downward trend of the previous two quarters, positive hiring intentions rose 4.5 percentage points (pp) to 31.8%, according to the latest Hudson Report: Employment Trendswhere 1,025 New Zealand employers were surveyed about their hiring intentions July to September 2014.
However, even with strong business confidence there continues to be a lag in New Zealand employers aggressively growing their headcount to capitalise on favourable market conditions. More than half of employers (57.8%) expect to keep their staffing levels steady this quarter.
“Despite the strong economic outlook, we’re seeing employers across the board continuing to exercise caution, not wanting to count their chickens before they hatch, when it comes to investing to support their growth ambitions,” said Roman Rogers, Executive General Manager, Hudson New Zealand.
“While we’re undoubtedly seeing increased investment activity in key areas such as housing, roads and the Canterbury rebuild, many companies in these sectors are operating with a leaner workforce, and are holding back on taking that next step of investing in their people to pursue business development opportunities. A strong focus on cost management continues to be a feature among New Zealand employers.”
“That said, we are seeing businesses beginning to invest in their HR and procurement capability, with a stronger focus on putting measures in place to retain key staff. This is a positive step as it demonstrates a shift towards employers investing in people for future growth, rather than being solely focused on cost containment which will help drive our economy further forward. We expect to see greater moves to attract and secure talent over the next few quarters.”
The Canterbury rebuild continues to dominate South Island hiring intentions, which are the strongest across the regions. Positive hiring intentions have rebounded 9.5pp to 48.2%, following a significant 10.3pp drop in Q2 2014 and this, Rogers said, is a result of a step-change in the rebuild process and move from demolition to reconstruction.
“We saw Canterbury stop to take a breath last quarter and recalibrate hiring requirements to meet the needs of the next phase in the rebuild. Future hiring intentions will be further supported by $15 billion of new spending earmarked by the Government in Budget 2014.”
The roles that are in most focus within Canterbury are those that are linked to organisations increasing revenue streams or those that help them to achieve more efficiencies so they can be more productive. This has seen an ongoing focus on project managers, quantity surveyors / estimators that are specifically related to the rebuild (both commercial and residential developments), along with business intelligence and business analysts across all sectors.
Government investment in infrastructure with a focus on better housing and transport is driving the economy in Auckland and the wider region. Nearly one-third (30.3%) of employers are looking to increase headcount, up 5.5pp, and this is underpinned by New Zealand’s improved trading terms and Auckland’s role as a hub for international imports and exports.
Intentions to increase headcount in theLower North Island dropped 1.4pp this quarter, and Hudson expects the region to remain moderate in its outlook, with work continuing on delivering an efficient and effective public sector.
Nationwide, the Construction / Property / Engineering sector remains the industry with the strongest positive hiring intentions (59.8%), followed by Information Technology (46.2%), Manufacturing (32.9%), Government (27.3%) and Financial Services / Insurance (23.2%).
Hiring intentions in Financial Services / Insurance continue to be subdued; with mixed results among permanent and contract hiring expectations. Permanent hiring intentions continue to be low however the industry has the highest contracting hiring expectations, up a significant 16.5pp to 35.8%.
“As we head into the end of the financial year for Financial Services / Insurance, we’re seeing a cyclical trend whereby contractors are being hired to manage workflows. We expect however, that after a period of time, this preference will revert to permanent headcount to lock in good talent,” said Rogers.
Contract roles in demand in this profession are those that focus on achieving the balance between efficiency and quality and include product managers, operational risk & compliance, insights & analytics, change managers, business analysts and project managers.
Overall, contractor hiring expectations are again up this quarter, and New Zealand employers continue to cautiously use contract resource in order to determine the mix of skills and expertise they require before committing to permanent roles.
“We’ve found that companies are only prepared to invest in contracting resources that can demonstrate significant return on investment. We’re seeing a surplus of senior-level contractors as companies focus on resourcing mid-level implementation roles which achieve high outputs.”
“As with permanent hiring intentions, contracting in Supply Chain & Procurement and ICT continue to be positive, and demand in the Human Resources profession is particularly on the rise as companies seek to retain key staff,” Rogers said.