For those who didn’t come into work last week, fear not! You missed very little. I walk to work so I’m not able to correlate the number of cars on the road to the number of workers like my gas-guzzling colleagues. Furthermore, I’m not even able to indulge my Wellington consultant base in a ritual Auckland slagging, “I mean, can you believe it’s not even got a center!?” usually gets me out of the traffic chat. Once I got into town my fears were confirmed, it’s still pretty grim out there. Aucklanders are very VERY slowly trickling into town and Wellingtonians by the sounds of it are still very much WFH. Those who read this blog I imagine have some sort of skin in the game and understand that the recruitment industry has a natural ‘lag’ a term some of our boomer readerships have discovered with during lockdown video chats. The work you do now, or lack thereof, won’t affect you straight away. I tell new to recruitment consultants that complacency is a recruiter’s worst enemy. You could be on a PB for the month, carried atop shoulders, sitting on a throne of Heineken 12 packs. You take your foot off the gas, place them on your desk and before you know it, it’s the 1st of the month and you’re sitting on a doughnut. Now, when Mr/Mrs consultant slowed up they didn’t feel it immediately, and just like the work that’s going on in the industry today we’ll see the fruits of that labour further down the line.
So, what are we seeing out there at the moment? Well as to be expected trades, labour and construction are seeing the majority of activity nowhere near 1 BC (before COVID) but it’s a faint heartbeat. One of the more unlikely players in the emerging market is Accountancy and Finance roles. Chatting to one of my clients this week he put it down to a requirement for financial modeling, a lot of businesses are having to pivot and restructure and finance is an integral part of that. The majority of the industry is on reduced hours with anywhere between 20% and 40% of a standard working week being removed. I’ve just three live roles I’m currently working on; one in Auckland, one in Wellington and one remotely working. All requiring consultants with experience in temp or contract recruitment. The example I gave before about complacency, that’s really just for perm billers. Contract/Temp recruiters often come into the month on a wee buffer with a lot of consultants still in the job on the back of their contract book. With project work understandably behind schedule there is a lot of hours to log but it’s getting those contractors picked up again is the problem consultants will face. To reduce numbers in the office a lot of agencies have adopted a split model, dividing the staff into two groups. Team A will come into the office Mon, Wed, Fri and Team B Tue, Thurs, and Sat. It seems to work well for the time being with managers enjoying herding fewer cats.
On the candidate side, it’s been interesting talking to people to hear where they’ve been interviewing. Some of the smaller agencies have been using this time to interview candidates and I’ve only really seen one of the ‘big’ agencies add to headcount. If you are glued to the “started a new position” notification like I am you will have noted its frequency is more sporadic these days, with promotions often masking a re-interviewing process. The advice I give to all consultants at this time is to try and get an idea of time frame; feedback and when realistically they could expect to start. I’ve also heard murmurs of commission-only roles being touted, only the most confident of BD machines will feel this is a viable option or those that have cut their teeth in the real estate industry. For most consultants out there, they still have a nagging sense of fear, they see more ‘meetings’ taking place with the same characters. Consultants who narrowly avoided the sword of Damocles previously are a little skittish of the pendulum swing returning. I fear we will see more consultants switching their LinkedIn status to open to opportunities. Especially once the government subsidy ticks over, consultants who are covered under the new 8-week extension can breathe a little easier knowing that the NZ Gov have their back. Others may not be so lucky, the plan was to keep people employed until the market picks up and they can start generating revenue again and for those in some businesses, their time could be up. Like the lockdown the gov put procedures in place to not overwhelm the emergency services, the subsidy is to ensure the job market is not overwhelmed with copious kiwis out of the job at the same time.
It’s not just our industry that is feeling the sting. I’ve had to be very clear in my adverts regarding experience in recruitment agencies and not just in the industry. A smorgasbord of candidates from hospo, tourism, aviation and retail flood the inbox if not made crystal clear. Auckland CBD on a good day is far from a bustling metropolis, a fact I’m annoyingly reminded of whenever a British recruiter is mercifully chucked from Aussie, lands in Aotearoa, and is trying to avoid Blighty like the plague. However, my walk to work this morning was populated by mainly men and women in High-Vis, shop owners standing in doorways, and day workers pointing to car parks that are now open. I worry that people may have become comfortable in their bubble, the amount of money they are saving perhaps a driving force to further isolate, this time from the economy. If the aim is getting back to normality we need to reinstitute norms; buy coffee, beer, acai bowls from local suppliers, I’m urging those who are abstaining from the CBD to venture out of their homes and come see! With the aim of making our market a little less comme ci, comme ça.