• There are opportunities for Northern Ireland recruitment to grow. But obstacles are preventing companies from making new hires.
• Graduate recruitment is important to get right. See how one agency got it very wrong.
Slump in private sector hires
Private sector service providers are among the most reluctant to hire in the current financial climate, the Financial Times reveals.
It is widely understood that the British economy depends on its powerhouse tertiary sector. In 2016, the service industries contributed more than four fifths (80.6 per cent) of total UK GDP.
When private services suddenly stop hiring new workers, where does that leave recruiters? That is the question that anxious agency bosses will be asking, after the Financial Times found that services recruitment had slumped to their lowest levels in a quarter of a century.
Figures from the British Chamber of Commerce showed that fewer than one half of services enterprises were actively hiring. The data for the third quarter of 2018 represents a sharp drop-off from the previous quarter. Just 47 per cent of businesses were looking to take on staff, compared to 60 per cent in Q2. It also shows that net hiring has fallen to its lowest rate since 1993.
And, where businesses are hiring, the picture is hardly any rosier. Of those services looking to recruit, almost three quarters (72 per cent) said that they were facing difficulties finding staff. The number is the highest ever recorded for private sector recruitment.
The BCC’s Head of Economics, Suren Thiru, said that “The sharp deterioration of firms attempting to recruit is a concern and reflects both persistent hiring difficulties and heightened economic uncertainty. Mr Thiru added that “economic uncertainty, if sustained, could materially weaken jobs growth.”
BCC points to Brexit stress
Usually, dramatic shifts in hiring intentions are more commonly confined within individual industries, where a market slowdown or external factors can affect all participants equally. Cross-industry polls usually provide a more gradual shift in market dynamics.
But the BCC survey – which polled around 5,000 companies suggests that – whatever uncertainties have struck recruiting – they are widespread and commonplace. Several sources have therefore offered Brexit as the most likely explanation for cautious hiring.
Earlier this month, the Recruitment and Employer Confederation blamed Brexit uncertainties for a lack of available candidates. The Director General of the BCC, Adam Marshall, commented that brexit would be like “slamming the door on the skills we need for companies to succeed”.
With the outcome of brexit negotiations still unclear, Mr Marshall re-stated the need for free movement to continue indefinitely. He warned that the use of “arbitrary caps and targets” on migration would only compound existing recruitment challenges which services currently face.
“Many firms are deeply invested in developing home-grown skills, and talent within their own communities. However, this alone is not enough to fill the skills gaps – at all levels – that businesses face right now; and which are set to get worse, post-March 2019” Mr Marshall concluded.
Many recruiters are dependent on the services sector for a large potion of their revenue. This is one set of data that every agency head will continue to assess in the months to come.
Recruitment in Northern Ireland slows
Hiring in the Northern Ireland jobs market has experienced significant slow-down – mirroring the wider UK experience. As we reported in this week’s top story, recruitment into Britain’s largest sector has fallen dramatically.
The most recent Quarterly Economic Survey, published by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce (NICC), found that eight in ten companies faced hiring challenges. Key indicators showed that manufacturing was the hardest-hit sector in the North of Ireland. Of the 71 per cent of manufacturers actively seeking staff, 80 per cent were running into difficulties sourcing the requisite skills.
Manufacturing in Ireland has enjoyed improving fortunes – with positive exports and overall growth. With enterprises poised to take advantage of improving resources, business leaders have voiced frustration at a lack of clarity and leadership, which is blocking their opportunities to capitalise by expanding their workforce.
Lack of leadership draws criticism
High among the criticisms were delays to the return of the Northern Ireland Executive, and a failure of government to lead in the training and re-skilling of the domestic workforce.
Northern Ireland also appears to be better prepared to meet its brexit doubts than the rest of the UK. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of polled businesses had appointed someone to lead brexit readiness. Of the remainders, about one in three (30 per cent) said they were actively seeking professional guidance on the potential outcomes of brexit.
NI Chamber chief executive, Ann McGregor emphasised the negative impact of Brexit: “we are stuck in limbo while Brexit negotiations continue to dominate”.
“Those businesses that are hiring are finding it increasingly challenging to fill vacancies. There are some serious skills gaps opening up for firms, and we urgently need to find a way to resolve this.”
Brian Murphy, managing partner at accountancy firm BDO said that “key regional issues in Northern Ireland” surrounding brexit must be resolved to ensure stability in the economy. “Clarity on these points will allow [businesses in Northern Ireland] to develop and implement meaningful long term growth plans”, he advised.
Graduate recruitment post to LinkedIn misfires spectacularly
How do you attract the brightest and best to a career in recruitment consultancy? This is an important question for every agency manager. The rush for talented young professionals has led to a surge in graduate recruitment drives among recruiters. In the past, we have looked at diverse approaches – from brand identity, to gamifying the candidate experience.
But one of the most tried-and-tested methods is to sell the aspirational lifestyles that many modern recruiters enjoy. You know: all those rooftop champagne soirées and flying a Lear jet while wearing cargo shorts with your suit jacket. That sort of thing.
That is modern recruitment according to a recent advert post to LinkedIn promoting the industry to graduates, made by Haigh Associates.
Their promotional reel sees a group of new recruitment consultants socialising, flying private jets – and playing ping pong at work.
The clip – which plays like an episode of The Apprentice, condensed into 45 seconds – can be seen
Obviously, there is nothing wrong with promoting an idealised vision of the recruiting life. But Haigh’s attempt to market those aspirations backfired spectacularly by disgusting the very demographic it was attempting to attract.
The spectacular misstep was spotted by industry commentators, before being roundly mocked by the very students it hoped to attract.
Online student portal TheTab.com then posted posted its own take-down of the campaign. Criticising its forced machismo and “the grand total of 1.5 women” shown during the advert, the students’ verdict was that it could only appeal to people who were “already a lost cause”.
But Haigh co-founder Kane Fallon called the mockery unfair. Responding to the commentary, he said “the purpose of this was purely to promote our company incentives.” He concluded his post to LinkedIn with the hashtag #SPREADPOSITIVITY