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22 April 2009 6:33pm

The recruitment industry might not have hit bottom yet, but there are still “glimmers of opportunity”, say recession-surviving executives.

First, the bad news: the signs that precede a recovery are not evident yet, says Aquent international CEO, Greg Savage.

The most the industry can hope for at the moment, he says, is that “we’re now bouncing along the bottom, but I’m not even a hundred per cent convinced of that… I don’t think any signs in Australia of a meaningful recovery have been seen yet.

“I think it’s really bad; I think it’s worse than 1991. Perm is a complete comp case; temp is still here but even that’s lower than I expected it to be. The best you could hope for is that… things will improve in the second half of the year. I don’t see any meaningful benchmarks that it’s about to turn, but I’d love to be wrong!”

Scott Recruitment Services MD Rosemary Scott, however, says there are some signs that things are picking up: “there’s some things happening in China that are fairly positive in regards to their requirements for aluminium… so that will help our mining industry”.

She and Olivier Recruitment’s Helen Olivier agree that there are “glimmers of opportunity in the market” but they stop short of declaring that the industry has hit the bottom just yet.

According to Norris and Partners director Lisa Norris, some recruitment companies appear to be on round nine of their redundancies while others are making their first cuts and “this would indicate we have a little way to go”.

The signs
If Australia’s employment market were on the upturn, “we would stop seeing people being laid off; we would stop seeing people’s hours being cut; we would start seeing an increase in advertising volumes on the websites and in the press. We would start to see better candidates being hired; we would start to see clients being prepared to pay full fees. And none of those things are happening,” Savage points out.

Scott says recruiters should monitor what the stock market is doing and what’s happening overseas, “because generally we tend to follow the trends happening in the UK and US. The US seems to be showing some signs [of recovery] so that’s positive.”

According to Lisa Norris, most recruiters know that one indicator to watch is when temp demand increases, because this usually follows “bloodletting” redundancies.

But, she says, “the indicators most recruitment leaders would use to gauge where we are on the ‘bell curve’ are not that clear this time”. In other recessions after redundancies were made there was a “period of pain” while the reduced team was expected to cover the workload, followed by a need for temps, but “the workforce cycle that previously has been a good indicator of potential market growth may not play a part in this recession”.

Scott says there are some recruitment companies taking advantage of the good talent available and gearing up for more buoyant times, but Norris expects many will be reluctant to take on new staff in the last quarter of the financial year, preferring instead to put as much money to their bottom line as they can.

Norris adds that the imminent announcement of the NSW Government C100 contract is likely to have the next big impact on the recruitment industry, with agencies that weren’t successful shedding their consultants into the market.

What to do
This is the time to build relationships with organisations, “because when those companies do want to recruit again, they will be coming to those people who they have relationships with”, Scott says.

Olivier agrees, saying: “The key is to manage people well. Whether you are a recruitment organisation, or a talent manager or account manager, you need to be managing relationships in all areas really well. I think that in the good times, people have a habit of not developing their candidate relationships, and I think the key to actually making a very promising living in the recruitment industry, is to look after people on all levels.”

She adds that to survive the downturn, all recruiters and organisations must be “prepared to change, and to be flexible, and not be limited by your own horizons, and work with people closely”.

And when the worst is over, “I don’t think you do anything different except a massive ‘thankyou’ to all of your supporters”.

How are you lifting spirits around you?
Olivier notes it’s vital to “bring the fun in during these tough times”.

She suggested that Recruiter Daily compile a list of what recruiters are doing to have fun in their workplaces, and we’re more than happy to do so. Send us an email by clicking here and we’ll publish the list next week.

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