Stuart Gentle Publisher at Onrec

Four Factors to Consider Before Adding Australia to Your Recruitment Portfolio

Aaron McIntosh, General Manager, Bullhorn APAC

The Australian recruitment sector has always been, and still is, a pacesetter in the wider Asia-Pacific region, despite complex circumstances. Much of the sector’s success can be ascribed to its embrace of new technologies against the backdrop of continued growth in job listings and increased candidate mobility. 

Yet recruiters looking to enter the Australian market would be well-advised that a laissez-faire approach will not succeed. Global competition, skills shortages, economic uncertainty, and immigration policies continue to hold sway over recruitment companies and their intentions to expand to Australia. Therefore, recruitment companies looking to add Australia to their global recruitment portfolio need to remain mindful of these factors.  Let’s take a closer look. 

Global Competition

While some observers may view the trade war between the US and China as grandstanding or propaganda, it is not too much of a stretch to conclude that almost any economic issue that carries ‘war’ in its title probably cannot be good for global markets. While Australia is no exception to this rule, it may just become an unintentional beneficiary.

According to PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, the shift of Chinese investment away from the US has seemingly made the APAC region – Australia in particular – an attractive alternative. According to the survey, Chinese CEOs are diversifying their bets away from the US (reliance on the US has nose-dived from 59 percent to 17 percent), with 21 percent believing Australia is important for their companies’ future growth.

For recruitment agencies looking to enter the Australian market, it is worth considering that Chinese business interests will almost certainly look at local talent to assist with their development in the region. This would create a golden opportunity for local recruiters to expand their client base while simultaneously displaying their dexterity in sourcing in-demand talent.

Skills Shortages

The shortage of available key skills shows no signs of easing off and has, in fact, moved up from one of the top five recruitment challenges in 2018 into the top three for 2019. Clients are clamouring for specific digital, IT and cyber security positions but a shallow talent pool is complicating issues for recruiters who are battling to meet demand.

More worrying is that a chronic shortage of key tech skills predicts a lack of growth for business sectors in countries with developing and stagnating economies. Without such talent, these countries will find themselves more and more on the backfoot against global competition.

This requires some fresh thinking from recruiters, as they need to develop effective candidate engagement strategies to reach a wider pool of people. For example, they should set their sights on passive talent not actively hunting for new employment, and consider reskilling programs to equip workers for new job requirements. By driving active engagement and refining strong internal databases, recruiters can source the skills their clients need for today’s evolving market. 

Digital Readiness

Against the backdrop of economic uncertainty, it is vital that companies looking to expand into a new market maintain a measure of operational and financial prudence. Agencies that embrace digital transformation by utilising automation and sophisticated, data-driven technologies, can enhance their competitive advantage in familiar as well as new markets. And there are encouraging indications that recruiters are indeed actively pursuing digital transformation to drive innovation and sustainable growth.

According to Bullhorn’s latest Global Recruitment Insights and Data (GRID) survey, 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%) believe successful adoption of new technologies is crucial to remaining competitive.

Adopting tools that automate admin-intensive processes such as scheduling, and capitalising on AI to gain talent and workflow insights, will help ease a transition into the Australian market.

Immigration Policies

Shifting attitudes towards immigration are forcing recruiters in the APAC region to focus on expanding the scope for talent sourcing. Bullhorn’s GRID survey reveals that 31% of recruitment CEOs are apprehensive about restrictions on foreign labour and how it will affect their ability to provide top-tier talent to their clients.

The abolishment of Australia’s 457-visa scheme could also see a slow-down in global talent mobility, which may result in the country struggling to attract overseas professionals in critical science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The changes to migration policy, working routines, and an aging population have not only affected Australian businesses, but recruiters are also feeling the pinch as they try filling roles with the right people. The only way to broaden their search for qualified candidates would be to use data and technology. Technology can screen and eliminate unsuitable candidates, schedule appointments, and save time. Having a centralised system to manage the recruitment process from start to finish can add significant value.

While the Australian recruitment industry poses unique challenges, there are also great opportunities for savvy recruiters. But to take advantage of these, recruiters must be willing to embrace new technology and apply diverse hiring practices.