Spotlight on global recruitment - part 1

Written by
Changeboard Team

16 Oct 2012

16 Oct 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Whats the global HR recruitment market like?

Alex Raubitschek, operations director, Advantage Professional (AR):
Although the media speaks of a ‘global financial crisis’ we’re seeing that economies and job markets in each country are vastly different.

Leanne Morris, principal consultant, HR Professionals (LM):
The market for senior level HR hires is consistently strong in South Africa, UAE, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany – with a constant appetite for candidates who are truly international in their mind-set and work practices, who have genuinely advanced commercial acumen and the ability to successfully partner with and coach business leaders. 

Matthew Reaney, director, JAM HR (MR):
We’ve seen increased recruitment activity across the UK, Northern Europe and APAC. China, Brazil and India are tipped to be the next big areas for global mobility growth.

Graeme Read, managing director, Antal International (GR):
It’s very varied. While the on-going troubles of the Eurozone seem to be generating an atmosphere of near panic, global employment markets (at least at professional and managerial level) appear to be holding up well.

Regional insights

Middle East

Julie Nicol, managing consultant, Digby Morgan Dubai (JN):

The recruitment market is buoyant at the mid-level and there are a number of solid senior roles coming through; both regional head and group roles for larger local business with an international presence.

(AR): In the Middle East, the HR market is an unusual mixture of old-school ‘personnel departments’, focusing purely on administration, and contemporary HR teams providing strategic guidance and leadership for their organisation.

Although there appears to be an increasing trend towards the creation of commercial and business-focused HR departments, evidenced by the increasing demand for HR business partner expatriates, the challenge remains to educate firms who stick resolutely to the purely administrative HR function.

Leith Ramsay, director, Michael Page Middle East (LR):

We’re seeing lots of movement in the market caused by investment from resource rich governments spending on key infrastructure projects and multinational organisations maximising on emerging market growth opportunities.

Asia Pacific

(AR): Asia Pacific HR markets are varied. The Asian countries are arguably performing better than their Pacific region counterparts, with skills shortages arising out of the industry’s development, rather than as a reaction to the economic situation.

Barney Ely, director, Hays Human Resources (BE):

Hong Kong: Over the past year we’ve seen steady demand for HR professionals across all industry sectors, with greater emphasis also placed on HR at a strategic level. Demand for talent and employee development professionals has risen as employers focus on staff retention, and skilled trainers to oversee the regional development of employees at all levels.

China: Most employers are seeking talent to assist them with the expansion of their businesses, along with replacement roles. We expect to see new jobs being created as companies centralise their HR functions in head offices.

Japan: The beginning of the year is often a quiet period for HR recruitment as many HR departments are occupied with year-end tax adjustments, headcount forecasting and bonus payments. Any new roles being created are focused on immediate business needs such as critical replacements, or hiring for next quarter headcount.


Joanne Chua, director – HR division, Robert Walters Asia (JC):

Employers are adopting a cautiously optimistic stance within the Singapore job market as they assess global economic sentiments. They’re likely to make critical or replacement hires; much fewer growth-related roles unless their businesses pose a particular demand.

(AR): The focus is largely on moving previously outsourced functions in-house, a nod to the recent difficulties and the need for cost efficiency moving forwards. The pharmaceutical, healthcare and telecommunications sectors are leading this HR revolution, with FMCG and media following. All sectors are seeing an increased influx of HR professional expatriates as in-house staff retention and management becomes an issue of recognised importance.

(BE): Due to the continued uncertainty in the European markets and following the lead up to Chinese New Year, the first few weeks of 2012 have been slower than usual as key recruitment is put on hold due to headcount issues within global organisations.


David Owens, MD, HR Partners (DO):

Australia’s recruitment market has slowed since the middle of 2011– there’s still a perception of a skills shortage. Few people seem to have decided to go about job seeking, so the experience is quite positive, and likely to remain so as long as the economic climate remains as buoyant as it is right now.

(AR): Australia’s HR market is currently facing a major talent issue, as companies continue to compete for a very limited selection of professionals. There’s a shortage across the market, particularly in resource, retention and industrial relations – an increasingly thorny issue for a country that recently reached a seven-year peak of industrial action.


Christine Trybus, associate director, Digby Morgan Europe (CT):

Europe has been reasonably buoyant considering the Euro: 

  • Germany is the most active; recruiting HR professionals, up-skilling HR departments, predominantly business partners.
  • French companies are outsourcing and in sourcing, anticipating changes in taxation later this year and understandably risk-averse, holding recruitment decisions until after the summer. 
  • In the Netherlands and Belgium, we have a number of specialist roles however some companies are focusing work more on in the Middle East and Far East.
  • Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain are off the recruitment map for the moment. 


Stephen Menko, director, Ortus HR (SM):

It’s a steady market with most permanent roles coming from replacement rather than growth. However, industries such as oil and gas continue to grow and we’re seeing a lot of mid-level recruitment for interim positions and fixed-term contracts. The high street’s disappointing Christmas sales figures has hit the headlines because of a difficult holiday trading period, but this hasn’t prevented some retailers from growing in the final part of 2011.

Alex Woolgar, managing partner, Inception Partners (AW):

We’re seeing a strong uptake in interim management – an area to watch in 2012. IT services and outsourcing (specifically business process outsourcing) are also growing. This comes as a result of both clients and the commerce sector as a whole trying to drive down costs in operations, minimising any high costs for people or equipment, as well as improving a company’s flexibility.
The move to a focus on e-commerce which has grown rapidly with increasingly widespread use of online services will continue to rise throughout the year.

Jonathan Wiles, managing director, Michael Page Human Resources (JW):

Recruitment has been primarily driven by churn rather than investment over the last 18 months; a typical trend within HR in this type of market cycle. Unemployment of six months or more within the HR community is still very low so there remains an on-going demand for experienced practitioners in what is a well-developed and mature market.  

(AR): The UK market’s not as terrible as is frequently portrayed; however on-going instability has created a generally sluggish talent flow. The hiring process has slowed to walking pace – companies are now spending an increasing amount of time on the recruitment procedure, with some roles being stretched out over months as organisations look to find their ideal HR professional in a market where sought-after skills are not easy to come by.

There’s an overall skills shortage in the UK, especially in the financial services sector. Companies are also struggling to find HR professionals specialising in graduate recruitment and compensation & benefits.

What HR skills are in demand in each region?

(AR): Although the HR recruitment market across each country is very different, they all have a continued demand for HR professionals. In a number of Asia Pacific and Middle East countries, this demand is resulting in an influx of expatriate workers, drawn by interesting, developing markets and lower tax rates.

(LM): Demand for bi- and multi lingual language skills is on the increase, as well as demand for people who have lived and worked in multiple countries.

(MR): Global mobility professionals with in-house experience are always in demand but there is increasing need for specialist skills in reward, talent management, expat tax & immigration.


(AR): Recent economic difficulties have left their mark and there’s an enhanced emphasis across all sectors on achieving the maximum cost efficiency for every role in Singapore. This has translated into a strong demand for in-house HR, with generalist business partners being particularly sought-after.

(BE): We continue to see a strong demand for specialist candidates, in particular learning & development. This is across all industries within the commercial and financial services sectors.

(JC): HR business partners and compensation & benefits specialists will continue to remain in demand in 2012. We also anticipate the demand for HR contractors across all sectors to increase as companies may struggle to secure permanent headcounts.

Hong Kong

(AR): The current demand is focused on senior vice president and director levels. Companies across all sectors, but especially financial services and legal, are constantly on the lookout for excellent HR professionals who can strategically drive and evolve their HR offering.

(BE): Compensation & benefits specialists are in demand as companies seek advice on remuneration packages and restructure benefits policies. Generalist HR candidates are sought as companies expand across Asia, creating opportunities in their Hong Kong based headquarters. Global mobility professionals are also needed as employers look at utilising internal talent and focus on restructuring packages to allow employees from abroad to look at opportunities based in Hong Kong and vice versa.

Middle East

(JN): HR professionals are in high demand in the UAE, KSA (Saudi) and Qatar in particular, and local HR talent is particularly in demand (nationalisation). As always, good mid-level business partners are the most wanted. Key skills include recruitment and retention, performance management, experience of M&A activity and change management. Start-up or stand-alone HR experience is also in demand, and any MNC (multinational corporation) experience (best practice) is needed.

The Middle East’s HR market is stuck between two eras. As a result, the skills most wanted are those which will assist companies in creating an up-to-date HR department which adds strategic and commercial value to the business on a global scale. As this change is still in progress, skills are needed across all areas and the Middle East is increasingly relying on expatriate workers to address this.

(LR): HR has gone through several evolutions across over the past five years. Initially there was a big focus on recruiting best practice experience from multinational organisations outside the region to come and raise the bar locally – moving HR from an admin function to a driver of the business. Post downturn, there’s been a major focus from organisations looking to maximise their commercial opportunities to invest in bi-lingual capabilities, particularly Arabic and English speaking HR candidates with multinational experience.

The main skills in demand have been HR business partner, training, learning & development, talent acquisition and talent management. There’s still opportunity for non-Arabic speakers; however to be successful they must be an expert in a specialist function from a top organisation such as a FTSE 100 or Fortune 500.


(DO): The highest demand is in senior HR business partner and senior specialist categories; OD, talent management and development as well as senior remuneration professionals seem to be most sought-after.

(BE): The public sector has a huge need for Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) advisors, consultants and managers, as well as case managers given upcoming changes to OHS legislation, which is standardising OHS around the country. Change managers are also in demand as new financial year budgets equate to new projects and initiatives being deployed that had previously been postponed. Recruitment advisors will be sought in the private sector, along with solid HR generalists with strong industrial relations and employee relations experience.

(AR): In December 2011, the number of Australian working days lost to industrial action hit a seven year high. This trend shows little sign of abating. As a result, almost every HR generalist role available has been adapted to require Industrial Relations expertise. While this is undoubtedly a key skill in Australia’s current situation, the effect is to further decrease the already limited pool of talented HR professionals available for such roles.


(GR): HR skills in demand in Western Europe are currently centred around talent retention and engagement, which reflects the balancing act companies have in keeping their existing workforce motivated in times of austerity. We’ve also seen a rise in requirements for HR professionals with social media skills to communicate more effectively with talent pools in places like Asia and Eastern Europe.


(AR): The UK market is being constantly bombarded with gloomy financial front pages, resulting in companies amending their HR hiring strategy to ensure they’re getting the highest possible ROI for their budget.
This has seen an increase in demand for high-calibre learning & development, talent and HR generalists who demonstrate a strong aptitude for commercial or risk management roles, combined with irreproachable best practice.

(SM): We’re seeing the greatest demand for expertise in compensation & benefits, recruitment and employee relations.

(JW): The current economic climate has caused a spike in the demand for organisational development, and remuneration & benefit roles, as companies look to hire expertise to tackle specific business issues. We’re also starting to see re-investment into learning & development functions, which is great for HR as it demonstrates that organisations are recognising that they need to invest in their people.