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Breakfast at Bernie’s Points to Recruitment Surge Ahead

By February 27, 20142 Comments

It’s been a fairly eventful week for stories related to recruitment.  What with Indian restaurants brazenly flouting employment discrimination laws by stipulating that only females may apply for jobs there, followed by an obvious publicity stunt from a trendy Ponsonby bar looking to do the same.  We’ve had a CEO rumbled for lying on his CV, the recruitment firm engaged by Baldwin’s to hire him so far avoiding the media hysteria aimed at Momentum when a similar thing happened in 2010.

But what really stood out for me was the message around our economic growth phase delivered by the ever-enlightening and entertaining Bernard Hickey at a Chamber of Commerce event yesterday.  There were a lot of positive indicators, as you’d expect in our current state of economic euphoria, but the main points made that are important factors for us in recruitment were:


  • A Chamber of Commerce survey found that 32% of NZ businesses say it is harder to get the staff they want than it was 3 months ago.  Many of us have had an improved 6 months, and this looks set to continue.  Certainly with sentiment heading this way, businesses will be looking more for assistance to recruit hard to fill roles, what role can your agency play in this?


  • Auckland and Christchurch are really the driving forces behind our current growth (4.8% and 5.6% respectively).  What are you doing to engage and attract candidates outside these markets who will doubtless be drawn towards the increasing range of opportunity in these centres?


  • We now have the same unemployment rate as Australia (6%) for the first time in a long time.  Kiwis are returning from Australia in ever-increasing numbers, mostly to Auckland, and net migration is way up.  Make sure you’re tapping into your Australian networks, especially ex-pat kiwis, who might be starting to consider a return back to NZ.


  • What clearly impacted the room the most though, was the strength of our trading position with China nowadays.  25% of NZ’s exports now head to China, with less than 1% going to the UK.  We still share many cultural and historical ties with the UK, of course, but as China’s focus shifts from infrastructure growth (for which they needed iron ore and coal – ie. the Aussies) they now have an insatiable demand for protein (beef, lamb, dairy – ie. us).  What’s crazy is that more of our kids are learning French and Spanish in schools than those learning Mandarin.  A shift in mindset towards embracing this new culture is essential and should be reflected in the diversity required by your clients and hiring managers.  It would be a good idea to make sure this is reflected in your recruitment teams, who will be working increasingly closely with clients and candidates from this emerging relationship.


We’re all feeling busier and more positive in recruitment, these days, but by the end of 2014 will you look back and feel you’ve really made the most of the current opportunities before you?  It’s one thing to acknowledge these new trends, then put your head down and just work harder at what you’ve always done before.  But it’s another thing entirely to take this opportunity to purposefully change your behaviours, your beliefs and your recruitment methodologies to really take advantage.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Yes there is definitely a positive feel around.
    My issue with surveys such as the Chamber is that they ask the question “In general, do you find that getting the staff you want today is easier, the same, or harder than it was
    three months ago?” The missing factor is … at the price you are prepared to pay…. While I accept that some skills are generally hard to find the biggest issue is employers STUCK in the Post GFC mindset. (cost down, relativity issues, no bonuses etc.)
    Those companies that don’t alter their remuneration structure to meet the increasing demands of the market are suffering ( and complaining) and will continue to miss out on the talent that could transform their business. So long dinosaurs!

  • Jonathan
    Cheers for the summary.
    About 90 minutes after yesterday’s briefing Statistics NZ came out with even more startling figures on the boom in dairy exports to China. In January NZ exported more than twice as much to China than Australia, which just last year was our largest trading partner. Exports to China in the last 3 months to January were up 91% (not a typo) from a year ago.

    Here’s the detail:

    I think you’re right that there will be pressure on resources and staff. It’s been a long five or six years, but employers will have to switch back towards the types of behaviour seen between 2003 and 2008 when keeping and recruiting staff was all important. We can’t rely on there being nowhere else to go anymore.

    The ANZ Business Outlook survey out today also reinforced that. It showed a net 32.4% of employers expect to add staff, up from a net 24.7% in the last survey.
    Here’s the detail.