SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on the HR and recruitment industry

When new workplace health and safety regulations were introduced across New Zealand this year, most large corporations already had the HR professionals in place to manage compliance. However, many were not prepared for the new levels of accountability and experts say this has led to an increased recruitment drive for key HR professionals of late.

New Zealand’s HR and recruitment sector experienced a 17% year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads in June 2016 and the average advertised salary was $82,236. Job ads across the sector have been strong relative to the past five years and have been increasing in recent months.

Safety first

Occupational health and safety ads were up 38% compared to the same time last year and Sean Walters, Director of recruitment firm Rice Consulting, says this is directly related to the recent introduction of the workplace health and safety agency, WorkSafe New Zealand.

“Health and safety used to just focus on things like how you pick up a box, but now we’re seeing a growing focus on health and safety from corporate clients because there’s a greater need for compliance,” he says.

The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), which came into effect from 4 April this year, shifts the focus from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks in order to promote the health of New Zealand workers.

Alison Gill, Managing Director of edenfx HSE Recruitment, says that while many large and global organisations have been gearing up for OH&S changes for the past 18 months, small companies have been less prepared.

“It’s almost been one of those stones that gathers moss and companies are becoming aware of the need to have a health and safety practitioner,” she says. “The market for these roles has seen significant increases but we have a capability issue in New Zealand. This has been unnecessarily inflating the salaries because the good and highly competent people in this space are being paid at a higher rate than they normally would in a stable market.”

The human side of business

Occupational health and safety was not the only area of this sector to experience a year-on-year increase in SEEK job ads. Organisational development roles were up by 71%, remuneration and benefits roles increased by 50%, while internal management roles rose by 159% compared to the same time last year.

Gill says this increase is due to HR managers now working within a strategic framework. “The whole HR structure has seen a shift over the past five years in New Zealand,” she says. “Before this, HR managers in large corporations were doing everything, now they are someone who is very much driving the strategy for the business.”

Job ads for training and development also experienced a year-on-year increase in June 2016, growing by 4%. “There is a growing trend for accountability in position descriptions,” explains Gill. “There is a requirement that people be competent and that is defined by skills, knowledge and qualifications, and certainly we’re seeing a push toward greater professionalism and training and development in the market.”

Richard Street, Account Director Client Solutions with recruitment firm Randstad, says the increase in SEEK job ads for training and development professionals may also be due to a greater push to attract the best talent. “Talent is becoming a more prominent topic that ever, so employers are looking at their brand proposition,” he says. “Culture, values and training and development come into this and it’s hitting the agenda of the C-suite more than ever.”

A slip for recruitment roles

While the majority of areas within the HR and recruitment sector experienced year-on-year increases in job ads in June, some saw a decline.

SEEK job ads for industrial and employee relations were down by 11% year-on-year. “I’d like to say it’s because we’ve got it right and all the collective agreements are sorted, but I’m not sure that that’s the case,” says Gill.

Walters says the decline in ads for these roles may be due to changing market trends. “There’s growth in areas that are not so focused on employee relations as we move into the knowledge economy,” he says.

Another area that saw a decline in SEEK job ads was agency management roles. Walters notes that this may be because many agencies promote from within. Meanwhile, Gill suggests this may be due to recruitment agencies putting their resources into other areas. “They might be looking more at where income is produced like recruitment roles rather than managerial roles,” she says. “Any business will look at where it can trim fat and increase margins from a commercial aspect.”

Changes in workplace health and safety regulations and the strategic value of senior HR roles has led to an increase in SEEK job ads across the sector. Street expects demand to continue. “Demand for OH&S roles, in particular, is huge right now,” he says. “The change in regulations has seen this element of HR go through the roof.”

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