While seven out of 10 employers are feeling optimistic about the economy, the majority are keeping staffing levels steady until they see sufficient signs that the economy is on an upward trajectory, according to the latest Hudson Report: Employment Trends.
Three out of 10 employers intend to increase permanent headcount during the forthcoming quarter which is consistent with the previous quarter.
The Report also looks at how perceptions about the economy are impacting employers' hiring decisions. A quarter of employers believe they now have more stringent assessment processes in place to ensure they secure the right candidate. However, results indicate that these processes involve steps like more senior involvement in the selection process and a higher number of interviews with preferred candidates - neither of which have been shown to automatically translate in better hiring decisions.
Six out of 10 employers now have more stringent headcount approvals and a third are experiencing slower decision-making around new hires.
"Most employers started the year with plans of incremental, rather than aggressive headcount growth so these results aren't surprising. Justifying the return on investment of a new employee is vital. Employers have a firm focus on driving productivity and high performance and there is certainly more pressure to get hires right," said Roman Rogers, Executive General Manager, Hudson New Zealand.
Hiring intentions in the South Island remain high with more than half (52.2%) of employers intending to take on new permanent staff next quarter. This is down 6.2pp compared to the previous quarter which reflects higher levels of clarity around skills required for key projects and the pace of change in Canterbury - employers are clearer about the resources needed rather than holding a general view that they need more people.
ICT remains the most positive profession with close to half of employers (45.3%) intending to increase permanent headcount. Skill shortages remain with strong demand for project managers, analysts and software developers in particular with some vacancies remaining open for lengthy periods.
More than a third (36.7%) of employers intend to increase supply chain and procurement permanent staff which is influenced by organisations' ongoing desire to gain efficiencies in the absence of sales demand and clear growth.
Small and medium-sized businesses (those with 0-20 and 20-200 staff) hold the most positive hiring expectations with more than a third (34.1%) planning to hire more staff. While positive, small businesses in particular continue to respond very quickly to trading conditions.
More than half of employers (56.5%) believe that the current economic environment has impacted the skills needed to be a high performer. Openness to change (76.2%) is seen as a key skill needed to succeed, followed by resilience to stress and not being deterred by setbacks (61.2%).
While many employers believe that the skills needed to be a high performer have changed, beyond more senior involvement and increasing the number of interviews, few organisations have changed their approach to recruitment materially.
Openness to change, resilience and perseverance are subjective and difficult skills to develop as they are typically defined by a person's personality. Employers seeking these attributes should undertake personality and psychometric testing and benchmarking to assess aptitude in these areas. Behavioural interviewing techniques are also needed to show how these skills have been applied effectively.
Employers continue to focus too strongly on the technical skills required for a role making it difficult to identify high performers with the right skills for today's environment. In fact, 62% of employers focus on technical skills, with only a third (32%) spending time on behavioural attributes and only 6 per cent measuring motivational fit<a href="#_ftn1"></a>
"There is an opportunity for employers to upweight their focus on behavioural and motivational attributes to improve their hiring decisions. By doing so, they will have greater clarity as to who is most likely to be a high performer and contribute to increased productivity and efficiency gains. In today's climate, when every recruit has to count it's a no-brainer," said Roman.
Hiring freezes across the company and for non-core roles apply to close to a quarter of respondents which is likely to be a contributor to more than a third of employers using temporary and fixed terms contractors more often following the GFC.
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