Challenges for recruitment CEOs in ANZ and Asia Pacific by Matt Webster, managing director Enterprise Solutions at Bullhorn.

The way ahead.

Australia is a unique and vibrant recruitment market, quite unlike any other nation in the wider Asia Pacific region. The industry’s success speaks to its triumph over complex circumstances, and its embrace of new technologies – presenting a good case study for the rest of the region. 

However, Australian recruiters – like their regional peers – are in no position to sit back and relax just yet. Global challenges such as skills shortages, global competition and economic uncertainty continue to put pressure on recruitment CEOs.

Here’s a closer look at how these challenges are affecting the Asia Pacific (APAC) recruitment sector, and how industry leaders can rise above them. 

Skills shortages 

A shortage in available key skills has moved up from one of the top five challenges of 2018 to one of the top three in 2019. Clients want specific digital, IT and white-collar roles, but shallow talent pools are proving a big issue for recruiters that can’t seem to keep up with the demand.  

Cyber security specialists, for example, are in huge demand across all businesses as cyber-attacks and data breaches become increasingly prevalent. What’s more, a continued shortage in key tech skills forecasts a lack of growth for business sectors in countries with developing and stagnating economies in particular. Without the talent they need, these countries will soon start to lag behind their global competitors. 

This means that recruiters need to think innovatively, and develop effective candidate engagement strategies, particularly aimed at passive talent not actively hunting for new employment, to reach a wider pool of skilled people. By cultivating strong internal databases and encouraging active engagement, recruiters can find the skills their clients need for today’s evolving market.

Global competition

The trade war between the US and China may look like political theatre to some, but there is no doubt that its impact is affecting global markets. According to a PwC report, Chinese firms are interested in investing more in the APAC region, with Australia a particular target. The report states that 21 per cent of Chinese CEOs believe Australia is important for their companies’ future growth while, by contrast, reliance on the US has fallen from 59 per cent to 17 per cent.

Reading between the lines, the important takeaway here for APAC recruiters is that Chinese business interests will need local talent to help them develop in the region. As such, there is a big opportunity for regional recruiters to expand their client base but showcasing their superior abilities to source in-demand talent.

Economic uncertainty

Global economic uncertainty means recruitment firms need to start looking inwards at creating operational and cost efficiencies. The key to this is embracing digital transformation; agencies using more automation and sophisticated, data-driven technologies in their operations can improve their competitive position in familiar as well as new markets. 

It’s encouraging to note that, according to Bullhorn’s recent report on recruitment trends, more than half (58 per cent) of respondents said that their agency’s technology investments will increase in the next year, while a large majority (91 per cent) believe successful adoption of new technologies is crucial to remaining competitive.

Immigration policies

Ongoing global uncertainty could severely restrict global talent mobility with many countries reviewing and revising their immigration policies. Immigration restrictions, like the end of the 457-visa scheme in Australia, have already reduced the influx of overseas professionals in key areas like STEM. 

Future access to global talent pools is a cause for concern for recruitment CEO’s: 31 per cent of recruiters fear that policies limiting labour movement are problematic according to Bullhorn’s recent research. In the face of talent shortages, coupled with immigration restrictions, the vast majority of CEOs around the world rank the use of data as absolutely critical in order to broaden their search for qualified candidates. 

There is no doubt that recruitment CEOs in the APAC region are under increased pressure as global events and trends push them to explore new technologies and approaches. The focus now needs to be on working smarter and making their processes as efficient as possible to find talent in an ever-smaller pool. With an eye on new markets, and with the right technologies to support their operations, firms can rise to current challenges, capitalise on opportunities and keep their clients satisfied. 

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