A Bright Future

INDUSTRY INSIDER - Lita Nithiyanandan, head of APSCo Asia reports on a view from Bullhorn.

Simon Greening, regional director of APAC at Bullhorn, recently presented at an APSCo Asia members meeting in Singapore to share insight on the current state of the Asia Pacific market. Here’s a snapshot of his findings.

Looking forward to the year ahead, the top priority for respondents is, perhaps unsurprisingly, increasing profitability, with over half (56 per cent) citing this as a goal for the coming months. Driving revenue growth and improving the management of client and candidate relationships also featured highly (both listed by 38 per cent as a top priority).

The top challenge facing recruiters in the region is pricing pressure and margin compression, with over a third (68 per cent) citing this as an issue. A close second was access to talent, with 66 per cent referencing skills shortages and over half (53 per cent) saying they are contending with global economic uncertainty. Looking at skills shortages specifically, access engineering professionals and developers top the list of hardest to find qualifications. As one respondent pointed out, there is some ambiguity around client needs, with those hiring looking for fresh graduates with business acumen, for example.

Bullhorn’s research found that the vast majority of respondents (82 per cent) rate their firm’s candidate service as good or excellent. Like elsewhere on the globe, maintaining a high-level candidate experience was also a top priority for recruiters operating in the region. However respondents noted a number of challenges they are facing including handling the number of applications they receive and managing unsuccessful candidates as well as clients not fulfilling promises in advertisements.

Australian concerns

Professionals operating in Australia and the region seemed largely unfazed by external factors such as Brexit, although there are indicators they are keeping a close eye on global macro-economic and political issues. The top macro-economic concern was overwhelmingly the rate of economic growth, with 82 per cent citing it as a key worry in Australia. Looking at Australian government policy in particular, around a third (29 per cent) believe that global labour restrictions will have a negative impact on their business, a greater number (48 per cent) say restrictions will have a positive effect. Increased regulations on lending and ‘red tape’ were also cited as barriers. Some of these concerns were also reflected in the region especially Singapore with increased regulation with regard to employment agencies.

In terms of business investment, almost half (48 per cent) expect an increase in operating budget in the coming year, while a similar number (44 per cent) foresee an increase in branch network. The value of investment in technology was noted, with 43 per cent predicting an increase in tech investments. It seems that spending on digital tools is seen as playing an important role in driving operational efficiency and boosting margins. Over three quarters (78 per cent) of respondents currently use a CRM, however a third (31 per cent) make fewer than a quarter of placements from candidates already on their system suggesting that they may not be making full use of resources available.

When it comes to measuring success, one third (33 per cent) use gross margin as the prime indicator, which is closely followed by volume of placements. Customer satisfaction ratings are also highly regarded, with two thirds (64 per cent) tracking data in this area. There was a discussion about new ways of measuring business success and if the traditional ways of measuring success needed to be updated at the APSCo meeting that Simon presented at.

Overall, 2017 seems to be shaping up a good year for professional recruiters operating in the region with most expecting revenue growth. What’s more, one in five (21 per cent) anticipate this growth to hit in excess of 25 per cent. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that 63 per cent expect recruitment needs to grow in the region the coming months, and industry leaders are priming their business to take advantage and looking to those countries that promise growth.