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Reflections on 2018 and forecasts for 2019

We ask five key players in the New Zealand and Australian recruitment and staffing sectors to share their reflections on the past year and what they think 2019 will hold for our industry, their business and the economy as a whole.

From the skills shortage making candidate sourcing more difficult to the need to embrace and adopt digital innovations, their observations make for interesting reading for those working in our industry.

Mark Laudrum, Director of RCSA Insurance

Key highlights for 2018:

For me personally and professionally, the key highlight was attending my eighth RCSA conference.

For the sector as a whole, from an insurance perspective and the work we have done with RCSA members, the highlight has to be the recognition of their cyber risks, particularly with regard to the sensitive personal information they hold on employees and candidates. Our general portfolio of non-recruitment clients are certainly not as attuned to their own cyber risks, particularly in the SME space.

Key predictions for 2019:

For the recruitment and staffing sectors, from an insurance perspective, the impact of the ongoing Skene v WorkPac case and the potential ramifications for other agencies who have long-term on-hired employees who could look to seek similar back pay for annual leave. This will likely lead to ongoing reviews of client and employee contracts and may have implications for outsourced payroll companies as they are effectively the employer of the on-hired employees.

Also, as far as recruitment of insurance professionals, this is becoming ever more difficult with a candidate shortage, driven predominantly by low numbers of new entrants into the insurance profession.

I think technology will change what we do with huge potential for machine learning/artificial intelligence and the time and resource savings this would lead to.

For the economy, workplace or Australia in general – in the workplace I see the ever increasing desire for flexible working arrangements (for permanent employees not just temporary workers), from the perspective of work from home, work from anywhere (globally), work at any time and the difficulties that can produce for employers in maintaining culture and team work when not everyone is together in the same place anymore.

Laura Maxwell, Chief Digital Officer of NZME, NZ

Key highlights for 2018:

Launching YUDU into the market in April, as a brand new option for employers and candidates to be informed, inspired and also find their next role, was our highlight of 2018. YUDU utilises all of NZME’s (New Zealand Media and Entertainment) captured data along with some clever new technology to link people and jobs

For the sector as a whole, I think we have seen more of a focus on employer branding to attract the best talent and storytelling combined with engagement strategies to retain key players. This is needed within an environment that is more mobile and less physically connected than ever before.

For the NZ economy, I think the highlight was the lowest unemployment rate in over a decade which is encouraging but it is also a double-edged sword in a tightening talent market. There will also be an increase in focus on the customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) with companies looking at what they want and how to improve the EX and reap the rewards in productivity and revenue.

Key predictions for 2019:

For the recruitment and staffing sectors, we will see top talent become increasingly discerning as to who they choose to work for. These candidates are often not actively looking for work, so being able to showcase your organisation to them, the work you do in terms of diversity, CSR (corporate social responsibility) and culture in a passive way is key. Organisations need to build trust based relationships with potential future candidates through exceptional and real employer branding.

I also think the way we work is changing as we are seeing an ever increasing move to a gig economy, with people working in a project based way, often across multiple workflows, time zones and companies. Remote working is increasing; people are valuing their personal time more and expecting work to fit around that. Soft-skills will become more important and experience and potential in candidates will win out over degrees.

In terms of how technology will change what we do, I believe automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence should be embraced. If you’re not looking at ways to implement them in your business now, then get your skates on.

For the New Zealand economy and the workplace in general, I think people’s personal data will become a bigger commodity and will come to form part of their personal equity. Organisations will need to adapt to the rapidly changing face of today’s workforce to remain employers of choice.

Jeremy Wade, Head of Jobs with Trade Me, NZ

Key highlights for 2018:

The highlights for our business this year were seeing our increased investment in people and technology bear fruit with the launch of ‘Job Profile’ for job hunters and a new advertiser platform providing access to our job hunter database (Scout) including a lean ATS.

For the sector as a whole, I believe there has been strong overall growth in the last year and it was heartening to see the sector pull together to push against aspects of New Zealand’s Triangular Employment Bill.

Despite the fears of some, the world didn’t end after a change of Government late in 2017, and the economy has continued to do OK, despite a lack of clarity around key infrastructure projects. I think that counts as a highlight.

Key predictions for 2019:

There will continue to be key talent shortages into next year and debate about the role of artificial intelligence and the interplay of bias will be ongoing next year.

For New Zealand’s economy I believe tax, particularly the CGT (capital gains tax), and industrial relations will be at the heart of political debate throughout 2019 and company wellness policies will become an increasingly important differentiator for employers.

2019 could also see Clarke Gayford awarded the honorary title of Prince of Ponsonby, and a specialist recruitment company launched placing NZ rugby coaches into prime coaching roles around the world. I predict Steve Hansen to be their first placement, coaching the UAE U17s.

Chris South, Managing Director with Prominence Recruitment Marketing, Aust and NZ

Key highlights for 2018:

For our business, a key highlight was our Australian business growing larger than our New Zealand business showing there is a real appetite for marketing among Australian recruitment firms.

The sector saw an increasing number of ultra-specialist recruitment providers who are really niche operators looking at customer experience, digital or start-up other than the traditional specialist sectors such as accounting or IT.

This year, New Zealand experienced one of the largest political changes for nearly a decade and there was a large amount of uncertainty among the business community. However one year on and the economy remains strong and appears to be in good shape moving forward.

Key predictions for 2019:

There is a massive appetite among recruitment leaders to be involved or not miss out around Artificial Intelligence and Business Intelligence. Chatbots or chatapps appear to be the most in-demand of this group. While chatapps are easy enough to utilise, we’re not quite there with fully automated chatbots. Automating how agencies in the blue collar sectors gather information and engage with high volumes of candidates is probably the place we’ll first see effective chatbot use.

Mark Reid, General Manager with Abbott Insurance Brokers, NZ

Key highlights for 2018:

The highlight of 2018 professionally has definitely been the coming together of two like-minded insurance brokerages to create one nationwide brokerage. Abbott literally doubled overnight following our merger with I C Frith, and went from two businesses more or less operating one in the North Island and the other in the South Island, to a strong nationwide solution for clients wanting a genuine and higher level of client servicing and insurance advice.

On a more personal note, getting back into running has been another highlight, and not without its own challenges. The legs aren’t what they used to be! Having said that, along with some other ‘masters’, we dusted off the cobwebs to win silver at New Zealand Road Relay Championships. And now I’m looking forward to next year’s race calendar.

For the New Zealand economy, we are currently befitting from the tens of billions of insurance money that is driving major infrastructure and civil and commercial developments following the two big ones – the Canterbury earthquake series and the Kaikoura earthquake.

Key predictions for 2019:

For the recruitment and staffing sectors ‘people’ will continue to be the greatest challenge and greatest reward – finding them, keeping them, and looking after them – all the day-to-day things you have to think about when you have a team of people who deliver for your clients.

Every business wants the best team they can assemble and the competition is fierce. The right fit and attitude is still a key component of building great teams, and attracting the right candidates in today’s market can be tricky. There are so many ways to both promote and access job opportunities. It’s great to have that level of access and choice, but because the recruitment market is more fragmented than ever, I think you need to trust the experts to help you.

What’s happening on the digital frontlines will continue to drive expectations around service delivery with traditional brands and their services which is also increasing the need for awareness of and mitigation from cyber-crime.

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