This year is looking different. Again.
I’ve been recruiting for a long time now. I’ve witnessed the regular trends cycling in, and out again, accompanying economic dips and rises, fascinating technology advancements alongside those inevitable calls for more of the human touch. In the past, when you reached a point of work maturity, with several years of experience under your belt, it felt like it was almost possible to know what to expect from the employment market. Then of course, COVID happened, and the world was turned upside down.
When we reached early 2023, I know I wasn’t the only one who thought, ‘at last, back to normal’—before a combo of natural disasters plus a looming recession changed the job market yet again.
So, is 2024 finally ‘back to normal’ for the employment market here in New Zealand? In short—no.
I’m not being pessimistic. On the contrary, my take is that the outlook is positive right now. But the regular market patterns that enabled those of us involved in recruiting to take a highly standardised approach; to run a recruitment process made up of a series of well-trodden steps, have receded. We need to be open to rapid adjustments in supply and demand; to think about our vacant roles, and the processes we use in the context of an evolving landscape—particularly with regards tech and AI, and to avoid making staid assumptions about what candidates want, or how they will behave. We need to be flexible, and responsive to the market.
The market right now
I’ll try to avoid using the word ‘normal’ too many times in this article, but in this context, it’s what makes sense: in previous election cycles, it was normal for hiring levels to drop off, pre-election. Businesses and organisations would pause, waiting for the results and a new government, we’d see our dip and then steadily the action would return. In contrast, during our 2023 election period, the labour market was buzzing and busy, and everyone was looking around in wonder as the new jobs kept flowing and the recruitment activity just…kept going.
Then, the ‘normal’ Christmas slow down didn’t happen either. Personally, I was interviewing candidates right up till Christmas Eve, and I know I wasn’t the only one! You can probably see where this is headed. Over the Aotearoa holiday period, including much of January and even early February, our job market is typically much lighter, but in early 2024 thus far, it’s been HOT— and I don’t just mean the weather!
I have started work this year with the highest number of jobs to fill that I can recall from recent memory.
Employers, if you are wondering if there are candidates out there as well as jobs, then my answer is a resounding YES. Volumes are high and they’ve dramatically increased already in the first few weeks of this year. An example: some of the roles that I am currently working on, have received over 200 applications in a week.
Will this make it easier to find the talent you need in your business? The answer very much depends on which skills, and who you need. For more general, non-specialist roles, then potentially yes. Assuming you’ve got a good grasp on role requirements and your attraction strategy sorted, then your biggest challenge may well be tackling large volumes of applicants.
On the other hand, if you need technical or specialist skills, you operate in certain sectors, or you need more senior level experience, then supply may be an issue. Unfortunately, there remains a labour shortage across fairly large swathes of specialised skill sets—and this is an ongoing, global issue.
Where have these job seekers come from?
We’re seeing lots of talented job seekers ready for a new role, or even a complete change of career this year. This pool is made up of people who perhaps stayed put in their jobs during the uncertainty of COVID, employees who remained in roles longer than they might have otherwise, through loyalty to employers who offered support through turbulent times. There are others who, looking back at challenging times, have decided now is the time to pursue studies to gain new skills, or are emboldened by confidence to try new things. The dawn of this fresh, new year has brought with it the feel of a meaningful turning point, hence these huge volumes of market movement.
Employers, take heed
Given this market, what’s a switched-on, savvy employer to do? Here’s my short and sweet advice for getting your recruitment off to a positive start:
It’s relatively stable out there and the employment market is SO active, that I have been advising my clients who had recruitment on their to-do lists for Q1, to pull out the stops to get things moving now, rather than later. This applies to both general and more specialised roles, given overall volumes. Therefore, instead of waiting for February (when schools go back used to be the classic marker), get everything lined up and start recruiting. We just cannot predict what will happen later in the year!
Be quick and decisive
Relating to the point above, but also to the recruitment process itself, I cannot emphasise the importance of this more strongly! You WILL miss out, if you take too long, in any aspect of recruitment in 2024. This speed should be applied to contacting applicants, shortlisting candidates, scheduling interviews, providing feedback and of course, making hiring decisions. Candidates are making decisions and moving at a fast pace, which means that those doing the hiring must also.
Find the positive—and shout it loud!
Not every organisation can offer top dollars. Not every business provides an on-site, discounted café or premium health benefits. However, there is something that is offered by YOUR jobs and your organisation that will appeal to the right people. You need to do the work to uncover what this is (Employee Value Proposition anyone?) and then make sure you are telling people about it in your recruitment marketing.
Be realistic with your expectations
Like every consultant, on occasion, I’ve had to have one of those ‘difficult’ conversations with a client. Fortunately, because we have excellent, smart clients, a partnership approach and solid relationships built on trust— this usually goes pretty well. I have noted that often these conversations are centred around expectations. Specifically, expectations about the kind of candidate you might get for a particular salary and package, and job offering. While of course, some requirements cannot be compromised, it is beneficial for all concerned to be realistic and flexible in your wish list.
Ready to go?
That’s my summary of what’s in store for 2024, in terms of the employment market, but given everything that’s gone before, and that it’s still only January - I am holding this view lightly! I fully expect the market will shift and change again, and that’s my biggest piece of advice for the year ahead – be prepared to change direction.
Questions about this article, interested to talk all things recruitment or looking to hire? Contact me at +64 9 3007224 or email email@example.com