Peter Mills, Country Manager, McCall Asia
The year of the sheep is now well into quarter two in Singapore and already we are seeing some trends pan out for the recruitment industry. The recruitment market according to most is pretty buoyant across all sectors with the exception of the oil and gas market still being in a state of flux and construction and real estate not hitting the levels of previous years. The positive sectors, as with last year, seem to be the banking industry which despite rumours of possible movement away from Singapore continues to hit the high notes, along with the pharmaceutical industry which is growing rapidly across Asia.
One of the main areas we are seeing growing in the wrong direction is the countries skill shortages - but this has become more apparent within the recruitment sector in Singapore over the last year and unfortunately looks like continuing in the future. With the Singapore government halving the amount of PR applications being approved and some would say the seemingly continued prejudice against foreign workers moving into Singapore, the race to grab good talent is intensifying. The recruitment sector in Singapore today is now more highly regulated than anywhere in the world and is now having to contend with more and more barriers in place before talent can enter.
I agree with the Singapore government's policy in putting Singaporean workers first - however I think the tightening of foreign talent has happened too early as all we are seeing and hearing now across all areas is that companies are struggling to hire the talent and experience they need to grow and in some cases even just to remain on an even level. More and more foreign workers are having their employment passes refused despite the experience they bring with them - even more worryingly for the country in my view, is that the majority of start up companies who used to choose Singapore as their Asian base are now choosing other Asian locations, in part perhaps due to the ease of hiring local and external talent elsewhere.
Despite the growing shortage of talent there are still over 2400 licensed (non domestic worker agencies) recruitment agencies in Singapore and with a population of just over five million competition is very high. Hopefully with the reducing number of recruiters the potential of increased competition will hep keep up standards in the Singapore recruitment industry so that candidates and clients alike receive a continuing high standard of service. As an industry it is essential to continue to rise - away from the view of our industry from the murky depths of many years ago, when even investment bankers were thought of as having more morals! Unfortunately on the other side of the coin this may cause some of the less ethical agencies out there, and sadly there are still a few, continuing to reduce their service levels and worst of all their ethical barriers.
The obvious initial path is to provide continual relevant training to staff to improve them as recruiters - which also makes them feel more valued as an employee and more experienced to boot. Partnering with an experienced ethical Rec 2 Rec such as McCall is essential in my view as then you do not only get quality candidates you also get their experience, and free consultation on how to grow your business and reputation, not to mention the PR they are passing out to the marketplace on your behalf. Sometimes companies need to build up and improve their market reputation after a poor or even just a quieter year, a previous ineffectual manager, or large staff turnover - many issues affect perception, but as we know, perception is reality. One spiteful employee unfortunately can do a lot of damage to a company and brand so it is essential nowadays that companies try to make sure the staff, even when leaving, have had a good overall experience which their colleagues can also note and respect.
One of the mistakes I believe too many agencies make after interviewing potential members of staff who are not going to make the grade for the company, is that they quickly usher them out the door leaving the candidate with a poor feeling of the organisation. To me every candidate who walks through your door should walk out of your office with a positive professional view of your company even if they have not been hired, similarly you are building your rapport with your supplier to avoid repeat unsuccessful interviews. We all interview more people who we don't hire than those we do hire - so if everyone leaves with a positive impression it goes a long way to helping build your reputation as a business as people talk, especially in an incestuous market like Singapore! Spending time and selling your business even with candidates who will not make the grade is free advertising and when more and more people are talking positively about your business the easier it is to see your reputation spiral and attract the candidates you want to work within your company. The best candidates often want to be represented by a well-established and successful rec 2 rec agency - so it is vital to source your relations well when you want to hire, or you may miss some of the precious few that are out there!
Increasing breadth and improving the amount and quality of your company's social media is another essential tool moving forwards - LinkedIn, Facebook, Google +, About me etc. are all free; if used properly they can really boost your company's profile which in turn leads to more volume and better calibre enquiries.
In previous blogs I have covered graduate hiring which many agencies in Asia are turning to as the Singapore Government as part of there treating Singapore workers fairly policy are providing subsidised wages and this is an excellent way to get cheaper labour but the recruitment industry does struggle with strong competiotion from the banking industry, also engineering, IT - who also want to attract the best talent.
There are many ways to get ahead in the game and nowadays in Asia it is very quickly becoming a necessity to go above and beyond the norm - to place your company as high as it can go - so that in going forward you are not left behind. Testing times are ahead for Singapore with the skills gap, talent gap but most of all the actual personnel gap becoming a major worry for so many industries. I wonder how easy the Singapore government finds it to hire staff?