Where have all the "workers" gone? By John Brooks

John Brooks, Commercial Manager at Gilmours, shares commentary in relation to hiring situation that is being faced due to the recent wave of COVID restrictions which he expect to remain unchanged in the coming months.

In the past 18 months or so, our business has been able to recruit experienced middle management and skilled roles easier. We suspect that this is due to the journey we have taken to make our brand more attractive to candidates and a more severe disruption experienced by our larger competitors. For us, this has been a pleasing change in circumstances and means we have increased our bench strength considerably. Let’s be clear – this has not been due to a wave of redundancies elsewhere but a real desire for people to change roles and gain new experience. I would speculate that COVID being the first economic hit in a long time in NZ did on the whole, increase resilience in a very short space of time. I refer to individual and organisational resilience. Much has been written about this in other columns.

What is the downside then? Upward mobility is always a desired thing in our employment market but it does require a balance between the supply of “new recruits” and the opportunities for advancement. What we are now finding is that recruiting entry level roles is becoming increasingly difficult. In recessions of old, skilled candidates might have applied for positions below their experience just to remain employed while they waited for the job market to improve under a scenario of higher unemployment. We don’t have high unemployment numbers now (Unemployment at 4% June Quarter. Source: Department of Statistics) and this is not forecast to happen even after the economic impact of these latest restrictions. Anecdotally, we hear those businesses in our Sector located in better Socio-economic areas have an even more acute experience of this problem. 

Extrapolating this out a bit. Could we face a situation where Organisation X says to a Senior Leader – “Ok, the business is in growth (better than expected), you can get the team back to 100%”. Then they turn to the market and can’t fill the roles, resulting in a continuation of the job sharing, duties re allocation and longer hours that has been the norm over the past year or so. 

Back to us – what have we done about it. Last year, we made the call to push a percentage of our lower skilled roles to Temp agencies. As we let the “lid sink” over recent weeks, this will be our strategy again as we aim to refill roles that were previously occupied by Temporary and Casual staff with other Casual and Temporary Staff. We’ll keep you posted as to how this went…

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