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2014 - A Year In Review

13th Jan 2015

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Like most people at this time of year I find myself reflecting on what life served up over the last 12 months. As I charge into the New Year with renewed energy and ambition, I consider the lessons learnt and the new tools my arsenal is equipped with.

The business landscape is constantly evolving and 2014 bought about some interesting new developments, some positive, some negative and the impact of some we are yet to fully understand.

One major development that was implemented is the The Fair Consideration Framework (FCF), which is part of the Government’s overall effort to strengthen the Singaporean Core in the workforce.

  1. Singapore’s National Jobs Bank was officially launched mid-July time, and at the time it boasted more than 4,300 employers, 12,900 individuals and 16,000 ‘live’ job postings.

The Jobs Bank supports the Fair Consideration Framework, which came into effect 1 August. This mandates that employers have to advertise job vacancies on a new government jobs database at least 14 days before they apply to hire an Employment Pass (EP) holder. 

The new rule, applicable to jobs paying up to S$12,000 a month, is aimed at making firms consider Singaporeans fairly for a job.

Rational behind the legislation is sound but the Jobs Bank was met with scepticism by some for what appear to be two main reasons;

  1. The numbers don’t add up. Today there are slightly in excess of 48,000 roles being advertised. There are simply not enough Singaporeans who want to do these jobs, and there are not enough students and graduates in the growing fields such as computer engineering.
  2. There’s no question about the fact that it is always easier to hire a local over a foreigner – ultimately should the focus not be employing the best person for the job, regardless of skin, country, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

Coupled with the Jobs Bank the instances of employment passes being rejected has risen markedly. For most recruitment businesses, until a candidate actually starts working at the employers, no fee will be payable. This means that in order to maintain revenue levels there has had to be a much more proactive focus on sourcing, engaging with and placing local candidates. No bad thing but it has required a significant mindset shift for employers and recruiters and for some it is proving a difficult challenge.

  1. There has been a continued emphasis on multi faceted roles. We held X:ED in October which focused on the emergence of the “Chief Marketing Technologist” a professional individual, performing roles that have traditionally occupied very different spaces in an office; technology guru, creative, strategist. Throw data science into the mix and you uncover a team of individuals calling themselves the “marketing department” who are from an entire cross section of academia and work environments.

As technology continues to advance we become addicted its tantalising advantages and we all endeavour to use it to take a bigger slice of the pie, whatever our core business might be. Technology no longer sits in the basement of an organisation, home to the bespectacled and bearded. It is firmly embedding itself in all of our roles.

This is only one example, departmental boundaries are being erased and far more ‘productive’ working environments emerge. Teams working closely together, understanding there is a mutual benefit to cooperation and support. More employees are being exposed to the high level strategy of the organisation and individuals are encouraged to think “big picture” which means understanding all the functions within an organisation, how they contribute and add value to the end goal and working in a much more cohesive way.

  1. The shift away from the generalist to the specialist. There are a few trends in recruitment that appear to be cyclical as employers try to find that perfect balance between identifying and engaging with the best talent and the costs associated with that process.

For many years, big, bluechip organisations have maintained panels of recruitment generalists – big multi-national organisations, with enormous databases who usually can offer preferential fees on the basis of economy of scale.

In the exploding world of “digital” adopting the generalist only solution appears to have created a problem for employers, these are not identikit individuals who can have a list of skills tagged to them. Identifying and engaging with the right individuals in this space has required a greater degree of creativity and intelligence. By virtue of exactly what they offer, generalist agencies simply do not have the operating models that support deep knowledge of one particular vertical and total market immersion.

I feel grateful that we sit in this space right now. There are significant challenges for employers and recruiters alike; the market is still young and large pools of strong talent simply do not exist in every geography. The benefit for us is that, by being dedicated to tireless networking, the great talent we uncover will be imminently place-able. We adopt a candidate first model and never before has this been such a key differentiator for our clients. We won’t try and find the right candidates for your opportunity, we will present the most appropriate individuals to you as soon as a need is identified.

I am incessantly proud of the team here. Early in 2014, we were appointed to the panel of a huge name in the technology space as the only specialist agency. In less than 12 months and only working the roles that sit in our core business lines the team here have become the number one performing agency. This demonstrates that, as we are often trying to emphasise, we offer a complimentary solution to the generalist agencies, specialist knowledge is a valuable commodity and despite our comparatively diminutive size, we have been able to achieve something many might have considered impossible. This is a lesson to us, we can move into 2015 with confidence that our service offering is in high demand, the onus on rooting out the opportunities however, will sit squarely with us.

  1. Relationships and networking remain king. I have observed that recruiters are investing more of their time in building relationships by taking their meetings to a more informal place (physically or virtually) and their conversations to a more sophisticated place – I suspect that 2015 will see a continuation of the trend of the “have you got any jobs?” recruiters dropping further off the radar.

Recruiters who hide behind elaborately sycophantic emails and “in-mails” will find a more competitive marketplace out there now. There may have been a small window some years ago where people preferred the phone going silent in favour of a cold email they could choose to ignore but now people are finding the silence deafening. A Talent Acquisition Manager at a multi national technology company told us recently, when asked how she differentiated between recruiters, “someone who picks the phone up to talk to me and demonstrates that they have something I need”.

Professional and personal lives continue to intersect as more and more people embrace the multiple forums they can use to get their message out and develop their own personal brand. It is easier reach out to people and easier to identify valuable contacts, individuals or groups. We have more opportunities to learn from the people we work with and subsequently give back to the markets we operate in. Nowadays everyone is looking for some intelligence or insight from their recruiters.

As ever, our worlds morph and evolve and we should be grateful for that. Without new challenges, emerging trends and brand new innovation our opportunities for learning and stimulation diminish and we would fall into complete inertness. Bring on 2015………….. and everything it has in store.