The Wrap – Supply Chain Market Update

In this edition of The Wrap Founding Partner Ken Webb talks about the Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement job market and what we can expect in 2021.

1. What is happening in the job market?

I think before you drill down to the real micro level of the Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement part of the New Zealand job market you have to take a quick look at some of the macro factors that are influencing the market. At the macro level, business confidence continues to improve month on month. The drop in house prices and massive rise in unemployment forecast to varying degrees by economists has just not materialised. In fact, the media has made us all aware of the increase in house prices off the back of a drop in interest rates and a general increase in demand. The big four banks are pegging unemployment for this quarter at around 5.4% as opposed to the 9 – 13% predicted earlier this year. And one of my favourites is Sharon Zollner of the ANZ’s Truckometer, an indicator that provides real time economic information. At the moment light traffic (an indicator of the momentum in the economy) is up on the same time last year by 5.9% and heavy traffic (a measure of real time goods’ production) is up 7.1% on the same time as last year.

All these indicators are very positive and impact on organisations’ confidence and decisions regarding employing or replacing staff. It would be fair to say that all of these positive factors have seen an increase in new Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement roles coming to market.

2. What type of Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement roles are in demand?

Many businesses have had time to review and take stock of their operations over the last nine months. They’ve scrutinised how efficient their Supply Chains are and we have seen a big uplift in demand for Business Support roles as well as Analysts, Demand and Supply Planners and Procurement roles.

The demand for experienced DC & Warehouse Managers is increasing, however this can partly be attributed to an annual trend in demand for these roles throughout the October to February period.

3. Are there more people applying for roles still?

Interestingly, at Hunter Campbell we thought we would have seen an increase in the number of people applying for the roles we advertise. However, this has not occurred and in fact applicant numbers have dropped.

I think there are several reasons for this. Firstly, COVID-19 has given people a fright. It came out of nowhere and threatened job security. There was a great deal of uncertainty and nervousness, unless you were in an industry that was immune from the impacts of COVID-19. As a result, people focused on job security rather than taking the real or perceived risk of new employment opportunities.

In 2021 a few factors may come into play that could change this. The economy looks to continually outperform forecasts, interest rates look to remain low and as I write this, the UK has approved the first vaccine for public use against COVID-19. There is also the potential that the borders could open up again later in 2021 to Pacific Island nations and Australia.  This all leads to a boost in confidence and may change people’s attitudes to risk in making future employment decisions.

4. What is important to candidates when considering a job offer at the moment?

People are still taking into account all of the traditional considerations when applying for a role. They look carefully at the organisation and the opportunity to ensure they can add value to a role, they will be challenged and they will grow.

Candidates are generally looking for long-term growth in an organisation, whether this be leadership or through further educational support. Of course, remuneration and benefits all come into the equation.

However, we are in a post COVID-19 environment and some people have taken time to reflect on what they feel it is important to them. For some, this has meant wanting to reduce their working hours or the ability to work from home. Some are seeking flexibility to change their working hours to better suit their busy family lives.

Overlaying all of this is this is how have employers treated their staff over the last nine months. As we all know there have been some outstanding examples of how organisations have treated staff. On the flip side, there are examples of some very marginal behaviour.

5. What has surprised you about the market this year?

There are a couple of things that run in parallel that have really surprised me. Firstly, if I was to be brutally honest, when COVID-19 first hit we thought the proverbial was really going to hit. However, we saw a multi-layered market appear.

If you were in travel, tourism or hospitality; then the impact was huge. If, however you were in food production or food retail, health, agriculture, or horticulture; the work volumes generally increased and the recruitment of roles continued.

Some hiring managers expected there to be a large influx of talent come onto the market. This just did not happen. Therefore, most of the recruitment work we are doing is still search work using our networks, database, search tools and social media to identify candidates.

It has also been difficult to extract people from their current positions to take the risk of changing jobs. We have had situations where people have initially been keen to move and when it has come to the crunch of signing a contract, they’ve got cold feet and withdrawn from the process.

I expect things to change as we move into 2021 with the level of available positions across Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement increasing, particularly in the first quarter.

6. What advice would you give to candidates looking for a job in this market?

Make sure you have your ducks lined up first. Your CV, LinkedIn and any social media profiles need to be aligned and professional – employers will regularly review social media profiles of candidates.

Do your research on the company: websites, talk to friends and a Google search for any related articles or news plays an important part in your research.

If you are going to an interview, you need to be prepared. Do your research on the products and/or services of the organisation and ensure you are comfortable with the offering. Many people don’t actually do this, and they are then unable to questions asked by interviewers.

7. What advice would you give hiring managers considering recruiting in this market?

It has been an interesting 12 months, something none of us will ever forget. However, the impact on the employment market is not what we expected in the Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement space. The expected inundation of good candidates onto the market did not occur. In fact, the opposite has happened. Good candidates are scarce and if they are active in the market the likelihood is that they will have multiple offers.

So, what does this mean for hiring managers?

My recommendation is to fully engage in the recruitment process – establish the timelines you need to work to and try and stick to them. Don’t compromise your process but be prepared to be agile and make decisions when you need to. Don’t drag a process out as this risks losing candidates to other organisations or the candidate becomes disengaged.

Remember the interview process is two-way and good candidates will want to ask you questions. Be prepared to give detailed answers on the business, how it operates, what the culture is like and how the business operated during lockdown.

Candidates are definitely wanting to know how future employers handled COVID-19 from a staff welfare and wellbeing perspective. This is becoming a bit of a yardstick and organisations that demonstrated a positive approach to managing staff welfare and wellbeing during these unusual times will reap the rewards as an employer of choice for candidates.

8. What do you think the Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement job market will look like next year?

To summarise:

  1. The economy is positive and looking much more optimistic than predicted.
  2. There is a shortage of skilled Supply Chain, Operations and Procurement professionals looking for employment. Combined with the reduction of skilled migrants, this could impact on roles where there is traditionally a shortage such as Supply Chain Analysts, Demand Managers, Demand Planners and Commercial Procurement Managers.
  3. Unemployment is not going to hit the figures forecast and will likely peak at about 5.5% and then start dropping.
  4. Employees who have been well treated and have had loyalty shown to them by their employers are now returning the favour, resulting in less active candidates in the market.
  5. While the general outlook is very positive after this year, COVID-19 has given people a shock that has heightened their awareness on how fragile things can be and how little control we actually have on some things. Most of us are now a little wiser and perhaps a little more cautious on how we approach things, including the employment market.

Ken Webb is a Founding Partner of Hunter Campbell. Ken specialises in the recruitment of Supply Chain, Procurement & Operations roles. For more news and views visit our website by clicking here, see what opportunities we have available here or follow us on LinkedIn.

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