Skip to main content

How Different Recruiters Have Dealt With 2020

By August 21, 2020No Comments

Hello it’s me again.  Sean managed to escape Auckland a couple of days before the v.2 Lock came Down and he’s quite sensibly remained on his travels of the South Island (unlike some of his fellow travellers who went all moths to a flame when Level 3 got announced and returned to Auckland early ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).  It’s his Friday turn on this here Whiteboard blog and in a bid to avoid us having to read his porn references gloating about life in level 2 freedom, I’m wheeling myself back out like a common Obama at a virtual convention.

I thought I’d have a stab at reviewing the weird, wonderful and varied way that different recruitment agencies have responded and dealt with the curveballs that 2020 have thrown at them.

Yesterday our maverick industry made a rare appearance on the old-money pages of the NBR.  In an article that you can only read if you pay them a subscription (or you know someone with illicit copy/paste tendencies) they “revealed” that global recruiter Michael Page has quit New Zealand.  In an age where social media propagates news like wildfire, journos have had to become quick on the draw with new news stories in order to remain viable.  Or, given that this story was mentioned on this here blog back in June, you could instead create a paywall model and go back to taking your sweet time with your stories instead.

The general consensus from those asked for comment (Carmen from Emergent, Amelia from Campfire, Shannon from People2People Frog and our very own Sean), was one of surprise.  And I agree.  I find it a strange decision to casually discard a decade’s worth of brand-building and market-establishing, particularly in such a peculiar and hard-to-break-into market like New Zealand.  But then this probably also highlights how peripheral we are when decisions are made at a global level.  Quickly wiping 15 headcount off a sinking lid staff roster was a quick win for someone, somewhere.

Yet other global recruiters have responded totally differently.  Hudson appeared to move quickly in immediately “right-sizing” their business as soon as COVID crept into our consciousness and a downturn loomed (a strategy identical to their response to the GFC in 2008).  But from what I gather, Hays, Randstad and Robert Walters have all held steady and largely come through with their teams intact.

Another multinational firm (who’s thunder I won’t steal…yet) also made a decision to pull out of NZ, but have been taken over by a management buy out so that they will be continuing afresh with their team largely intact here in NZ too.

Other sources of information also reveal how different recruiters have responded in different ways.  My own team have been closely mapping the Auckland market to keep tabs on team sizes and movements of recruitment consultants throughout this strange year.  Most firms have contracted slightly.  Some carved off their admin and support staff.  Others released their academy prospects in a last-in, first out policy.  Yet others fixed their sights on the future and brought the axe down on their longer-serving, higher-salaried, management staff.

The MSD’s published Wage Subsidy data also reveals our industry’s erratic response.  Searching though the 54 different recruitment agencies that we at Rice Consulting have recruited for in the past 10 years, every single one (apart from the globals with HQs outside NZ) received wage subsidies the first time around in April.  Yet only half have received the extension, suggesting that many have managed to stem the revenue bleed to some degree better than others.

It’s clear that 2020 has not been a good time to be solely focused on Permanent recruitment, particularly not for white-collar roles in Auckland.  Even those recruiting in recession-proof IT have had to focus on expanding their Contracting capabilities.  From all the information gathered it would appear that 2020 has been kindest to those recruiters who specialise in Blue Collar trades, Pink Collar temps, and White Collar Government roles.

What a year, a real rollercoaster, and one that clearly no playbook has ever been written for (despite the torrents of advice pouring out of your LinkedIn feeds).  The sense is that recruitment activity is picking up across the board, and this recent lockdown 2.0 is little more than a speedbump.  Everyone seems to be holding their breath to see what September brings.  To see what the end of the wage subsidy will mean.  To see what the drastic drop in Q2 GDP will be.  To see what the election result will be…oh hang on we have to wait another month for the inevitable outcome of that one.

Whatever happens, I feel the momentum will remain, things will continue to improve, and as recruiters we’ve rolled with enough punches this year that I’m sure our industry will now weather whatever storms still lie ahead.

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.