Archive for January, 2008
Sunday Business Post – Executive Search and Selection Report – Jan 20 2008
Unhappy with a lack of clout at board level, almost half of senior technology personnel is considering a change of job, writes Dermot Corrigan
Almost half of all senior technology executives working in Ireland are considering a change of job this year. This is according to research published by British recruiter Harvey Nash, which last year moved into the Irish market with the acquisition of Dublin company Rescon IT.
Published in October, the company’s ‘2007/08 Strategic Leadership Survey – A European CIO Perspective’ questioned senior IT executives and managers in Irish and European organisations.
“Over 40 per cent of CIOs (chief information officers) expect to have moved jobs in the next two years and nearly one in five (17 per cent) are already looking for a new job,” said David Burke, operations and service delivery team lead, Rescon IT. “People are not just hanging onto the job they have. They are looking for a move.”
The Harvey Nash report found that the main factor influencing this trend was dissatisfaction with internal company ‘culture’.
“One in two of the surveyed CIOs (48 per cent) feel IT is not well enough integrated with their business,” said Burke. “A further 42 per cent doubt the ability of technology to make a positive contribution to the bottom line of their business.”
Adding IT value
Burke said CIOs’ strategic influence at board level is actually decreasing.
“CFOs overwhelmingly still see IT as a ‘cost centre’ and not as a value-adding business weapon,” he said.
Stephen Brady, manager with BroadReach, said senior IT executives looking to progress their careers required a keen head for business in addition to well-honed technical skills.
“The skillset that is required for your CIO, or your IT director, is changing,” said Brady. “CIOs and IT directors are required to bring greater insight to the table. Creating greater efficiencies from the organisations systems and creating better market intelligence and client communication are very important skills at the moment.”
Burke said that, by concentrating purely on technology, ambitious candidates risked impeding their career progression.
“Some IT leaders are still thinking in IT terms, and not like a businessman,” he said. “IT leaders need to focus more on things like return on investment and driving efficiencies and cost savings. The IT leaders that do this successfully are the ones who progress to board level or move into the CEO role.”
According to the IDA’s End of Year Statement for 2007, a number of tech-sector multinationals established or expanded operations in Ireland last year, including Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, VMware, Novell and Vivendi.
Áine Brolly, head of executive search and selection at Penna, said continued inward investment in the IT sector in Ireland was feeding demand for senior IT executives.
“Over 300 overseas ICT (information and communications technology) companies develop, market and manufacture in Ireland and seven of the world’s top ten ICT companies have a substantial base here,” said Brolly. “This means that there is real competition for talent within the sector, particularly at the top of organisations.”
Burke said demand for IT executives within some other sectors of the economy remained constant.
“Financial services is strong,” he said. “This also includes technology companies providing software and services to the financial services sector. Global organisations and large outsourcing and consulting companies also figure high on the list.”
When international IT organisations establish operations in Ireland, Brolly said, the majority bring senior staff with them to head-up the operation.
“Typically they will bring a couple of top guys with them,” she said. “These people will know the company culture and the way it does things. The intention will not be for those people to stay, but they will wait until the other senior managers are bedded down.”
Brady said multinationals establishing or expanding Irish operations often approach executive search films to find out about the pool of executive talent available locally.
“They will look to us to map out the market in the sector they are talking about,” he said.
According to Brolly, the willingness of multinational companies to offer senior positions to Irish candidates varied.
“It depends on the role,” she said. “If Microsoft come into Ireland, they will also delve into the Irish market. For a very senior commercial role in Microsoft Ireland they will want someone who appreciates the Irish market.
“However, an organisation, like say Google, who is selling all over EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia), and Dublin just happens to be their base – does not need to have particular executives with a knowledge of the Irish market, so it tends to recruit from overseas.”
Brolly said both multinationals and local organisations are often forced to look abroad to source IT talent at managerial level.
“The market here is pretty saturated,” she said. “This means recruiters must spread their nets widely to fill executive positions. Where we look depends on where the company’s competitors are based. We always have to take an international view now in terms of getting the right people, whether that is America, Asia or Europe.”
Skills and experience
IT candidates looking for a seat at the boardroom table need genuine leadership potential as well as technical knowledge, said Brolly.
“Larger organisations will have all the niche technical and commercial skills lower down,” she said. “At senior management level you need strong leadership, you are looking for thinkers, people who are almost mavericks, who can drive change and keep organisations at the leading edge.”
Brady said demand for senior IT candidates was currently coming from a range of business types and sectors.
“Typically, your start up is going to look for a more entrepreneurial and dynamic individual, someone who is more flexible and hands-on,” he said. “With multinationals there is a type of candidate that understands that environment. The SME sector would also have its own required skillsets, such as being able to expand the business and make it more efficient.”
Burke said the number of high-level IT roles available just below board level was on the rise.
“We are very busy at present up to senior programme manager levels,” he said. “These roles would be strategic IT functions, but perhaps not at director or board level.”
Pay and perks
Brolly said senior IT executives in Ireland typically look to international salary trends in IT to determine pay and perks, rather than general senior-level pay trends in the Irish market.
“Major technology firms coming into Ireland are not saying ‘What is the market rate in Ireland?,” said Brolly. “They are looking at what our major international competitors would pay for these people. We have done a lot of work educating firms here about that, and telling them ‘If you want someone to take a role in Dublin, you have to pay them what they would get in California. If you are really serious you have to pay what someone would make in any global location.’”
Brolly said leading Irish IT executives were aware of the business benefits they could bring to an organisation, and expected to be rewarded accordingly.
“You have to look at what the person will add to the business,” said Brolly. “If a guy wants an extra €20,000 above what you were prepared to pay, you have to think of what commercial value they are going to add. For headhunting to be successful, there has to be flexibility in terms of the package.”
For senior IT executives, Burke said the package of benefits on offer is, in most cases, as important as base salary.
“A strong factor at this level will be the benefits which will include strong bonus opportunity, car allowance or car, possible share options as well as the usual benefits,” he said. “This can add about 30 per cent to base salaries and is often the deciding factor in the overall suitability of the final offer.”
Brady said senior IT candidates tend to expect substantial bonuses.
“Because the IT function can have a greater impact on profitability, we are seeing more IT directors and CIOs remunerated on a profit-based bonus scheme,” he said. “That may have been the domain of the CEO or sales director, but nowadays if the IT guys are effecting profit margins by making improvements and efficiencies they are in line for a share of those profits.”
Burke said salaries at just below board level were continuing to rise ahead of inflation.
“At programme manager level we are seeing an increase in base salaries,” said Burke. “They are now firmly in the 80-100k base mark, which would be an average increase of roughly ten per cent last year.”
Sunday Business Post – Recruitment Pages – Jan 13 2008
The new Employment Agency Act, to be introduced this year, will set about properly regulating the industry sector. But not all industry players are pleased with its introduction writes Dermot Corrigan.
The introduction of a new Employment Agency Act later this year will tighten the regulations governing the Irish recruitment industry.
The introduction of the new bill, first proposed four years ago, has been delayed by ongoing ‘Towards 2016’ social partnership negotiations, and concerns over possible conflict with the European Union Services Directive. However, a spokesperson at the Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) has confirmed it is expected to be passed into law this year.
The most striking element of the new legislation will be the establishment of a government body to oversee the operation of a new statutory code of practice for companies and individuals operating in the recruitment sector in Ireland.
This statutory advisory and monitoring committee will include representatives from the department, employers’ groups, unions, the National Recruitment Federation, and a number of ministerial appointees. It will have the power to make proposals to the minister in relation to the suspension of registration – or prosecution – of employment agencies who breach the new code of practice.
Code of Practice
Frank Collins, president of the National Recruitment Federation (NRF), said he welcomed the setting up of the new committee. He added, however, that he did not see the need for a statutory code of practice.
“We feel the code of practice should be voluntary,” said Collins. “The code of practice proposed in the act is, by and large, what we have already, but my worry would be that if you make it statutory, it becomes inflexible – and makes it difficult for commercial services to change and adapt.”
“(In the recruitment sector) we have to have licenses to operate, and most industries do not. Individuals need to pass a Garda check to get a license, which is only required in the security industry. There is a whole load of employment law out there that applies to us. So why we need more regulation, I do not know.”
Collins said that, despite indications from the department to the contrary, he still hoped that the code of practice would be voluntary. However, Colman Collins, managing director, Collins McNicholas Recruitment and Human Resource Services Group, said that the present system of voluntary regulation was not working.
“I do not know of any industry that is able to regulate itself,” said Collins. “Statutory regulation is the only way forward. You have only to look at the legal, estate agent and accountancy professions to see that self regulation is a waste of time.”
The NRF estimates that there are currently between 350 and 400 recruitment businesses operating in Ireland at the moment. Frank Collins believes the competition that exists between these businesses provides a sufficient means of maintaining high standards.
“The NRF was set up to improve and promote best practice,” he said. “That is a commercial thing, rather than a legal issue. We feel that the better service we provide, the more people will use us. Better companies will grow, and those providing a lower service will drop out. We are no different than any other sector.”
Colman Collins said many recruiters operating in Ireland do not conform to best practice.
“There is no evidence to support the idea that competition will keep standards high,” he said. “There are more and more agencies chasing fewer and fewer CVs. It is hard to quantify, but our consultants continually bring issues to our attention that would suggest standards are not improving.”
“To my knowledge the NRF has not thrown out any members as yet, and some of its members do not adhere to its guidelines,” said Colman Collins. “It has not succeeded in cleaning up the bad practice where it has come across it. It cannot really, as it is just a self regulating body.”
Existing legislation governing employment agencies in Ireland dates back to 1971. A discussion paper outlining plans to update this act was circulated in 2004. At the time, the department received submissions from industry stakeholders, including the NRF, Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC), the Revenue Commissioners, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and a number of individual recruiters including Collins McNicholas, which is not a member of the NRF. This lead to the publication of a white paper in June 2005.
Frank Collins said the NRF had been involved in putting together the new legislation from the beginning.
“We have been fully involved in consultation process since 2004,” he said. “We were consulted when they came up with the white paper, and again in 2006 when they came up with the heads of bills.”
He added, however, that the real nitty-gritty of the legislation was agreed during social partnership talks between government, unions and employers.
“We were not a part of that,” he said. “Effectively, the social partners agreed what should go into the act, and then the consultation we had was how to implement what the employers’ groups, unions and government had agreed.”
Frank Collins said the legislation has therefore not been written with the recruitment industry’s interests at heart.
“The difficulty is that the employers have no problems putting all responsibilities onto agencies, and the trade unions have no problem putting responsibilities onto agencies as well,” he said. “We are given a huge amount of responsibility, for no benefit, so we were a bit caught in the middle.”
The introduction of the legislation, he said, was held up by unrelated debates between unions and employers.
“The trade union movement came in looking for additional requirements, which delayed the process,” he said.
The DETE spokesman agreed.
“The Heads of a Bill were circulated for observations in October 2006, but progress was held up due to further demands from ICTU and SIPTU, in relation to a number of matters not forming part of the social partnership agreement,” said a department spokesperson.
A further hurdle was encountered last year, as the draft legislation did not conform to the EU Services Directive, which contains a distinction between businesses that fill temporary and full-time positions.
The department’s spokesperson said these matters have now been settled.
“The Department has engaged in detailed discussions with the EU Commission and the Office of the Attorney General relating to EU law in the area of freedom to deliver services,” he said.
“Following the recent conclusion of the protracted consultation process, ministers are now considering the various issues arising, in the context of finalising an early submission to Government,” said the spokesperson. “It is our intention that, following Government consideration of these issues, the bill will be finalised quickly.”
Colman Collins said he hoped the new legislation would make it more difficult to establish recruitment businesses in Ireland.
“It is far too easy to set up a recruitment agency now,” he said. “When you consider how important the task is that it performs, it is outrageous that anybody can just put their sign up outside the door, with no previous qualifications or experience in human resources or recruitment. Just having no criminal record does not mean you are competent to run a recruitment agency.”
However, Frank Collins said he expected the legislation to have no requirement for recruiters to have human resources qualifications.
“The initial version the act required anyone setting up an agency to have a recognised human resources qualification,” he said. “We felt that was not right, as often the best people to recruit are from the sector itself – for instance a financial background, for recruiting accountants.”
The existing legislation, introduced in 1971, contains a requirement for any recruitment business operating here to have a premises in Ireland. This is likely to be removed from any new legislation. Frank Collins said that, in practice, the old act had not deterred overseas agencies from operating here, and the NRF welcomed competition from other EU states.
“We do not think there should be any barriers to registration, but they should be regulated,” he said. “We have no problem competing on a level playing field.”
A suggestion arising from the partnership negotiations was for the rights of agency workers to be enshrined in the Employment Agency Act. Frank Collins said this would add confusion to the legislation, and hoped the new act would keep the regulation and practice of recruitment agencies separate from the minutiae of existing labour law.
“There are thirty-something different pieces of employment legislation, sixty or seventy statutory instruments and hundreds of regulations that impact on employees,” he said. “It is not this particular act’s job to clear this up.”
Sunday Business Post – Computers in Business Magazine – Jan 13 2008
Read the story on the SBP website by clicking here.
Paper may still dominate business processes, but computer document management systems make it increasingly easier for the appropriate users to access important information, writes Dermot Corrigan.
The advance of information technology has not diminished the importance of documents to Irish businesses. Managing an increasing number and type of documents remains of huge importance for business success.
“Document management is the process for capturing, storing, indexing, routing and managing key business documents so that they can be processed and accessed when needed by the appropriate users,” said Garret Pearse, product manager with SoftCo.
The term document no longer refers just to sheets of paper, according to Stephen Tunney, managing director of Adest.
“Document management systems are used to store a range of different document formats,” said Tunney. “Essentially they can store any document coming into your organisation. You can scan paper documents, and also capture PDFs, JPGs, drawings, computer files. You can store all kinds of things in their native format within a single system, accessible through a single interface. It looks like the paper copy, you can view it, print it, fax it or e-mail it.”
Document management fits within the wider area of information or content management, said Richard Moore, business group lead, information worker, Microsoft Ireland.
“We would think of document management as part of a broader information management challenge that most organisations have, making sure things are held and accessed appropriately, and in a way that is easy for people to get a hold of,” said Moore.
There are two main ways in which organisations and businesses use document management systems, according to Andy Jones, general manager and director for Xerox Global Services in Europe.
“First there are transactional opportunities. Companies that want to digitise supplier invoices will implement a new process underpinned by a bit of technology and from this point on every invoice that comes in is digitised,” said Jones. “Other organisations have a lot of archival information that is important to their business and they look to digitise all that.”
Nigel Ghent, UK and Ireland marketing director, EMC Documentum, said that document management systems are usually purchased because of an outstanding business need.
“People do not wake up in the morning thinking we need to manage content better or automate our processes,” said Ghent. “Maybe there is a EU directive to adhere to, or a requirement to drive cost reduction in a line of their business. We talk to customers and come back to them with a solution that can solve those problems.”
Tunney said the primary reason for businesses to adopt document management technology was to boost productivity by speeding up processes.
“For example, we have a number of clients making deliveries all around the country every day,” he said.
“They have paper dockets to prove every delivery has taken place, they are scanned in the depots and automatically sent to the system in Dublin, so their credit control department knows that those goods have been delivered.”
Blaik said organisations with staff that need access to detailed information on clients or products also derive impressive productivity benefits from document management systems.
“When somebody rings up and makes a complaint, rather than someone having to go off to a filing cabinet and trying to find a letter, or going to a warehouse off site, you can easily search and retrieve that information,” he said.
Blaik said tightening compliance regulations were leading to quicker adoption of document management systems.
“Compliance is a huge issue,” he said. “Not just around regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley; there are also many different EU and individual country directives about how long companies must retain, and make available, customer invoices and statements.”
Aidan O’Neil l, chief executive of Docosoft, said document management systems could also help businesses lower their storage costs.
“Some industries have to keep documents five, seven, up to 20 years, but the paper now does not have to be kept on site,” he said.
“Some companies would store documents in other locations and use couriers to bring them in when needed, but then there is a cost to the company every time they want to access it. Electronic documents do not replace the paper, but they can access the electronic copy whenever they want.”
O’Neil l said document management systems allow multiple users, in different locations, to view the same document at the same time.
“Many people can access an electronic document at one time, whereas if you have a paper document you have to photocopy it or move it,” said O’Neil l.
Tunney said document management systems made it easier for companies to avoid losing vital information. “Even if something is misfiled, it can be searched for using the content of the document,” he said. “If that was misfiled in a paper-based environment there might be a massive search to find it.”
Document management systems come in a variety of forms, and are used in different ways in different sectors, including financial services, retail, manufacturing and local government, according to Jones.
“In the financial services sector, which is very document-driven indeed, companies are looking at how they handle incoming applications, claims, forms, enquiries from customers, how they receive that, digitise it and then run it through an electronic workflow process to make the incoming part of the process more effective,” he said.
“There is also an outbound part of the process, with lots of physical documents sent to customers. Content management systems can make that more efficient and lower the costs,” said Jones.
“In the retail area the big thing is supply-chain management. They are buying lots of things, so they are receiving lots of invoices from suppliers, so we look at how we can digitise these processes – receive physical documents, scan them, deliver them to the accounting operation and accelerate the accounts payable area.
“Manufacturing companies on their product and technical documentation, if I am producing a car or a piece of equipment, how can I help their customer understand the manuals more effectively, keep them updated more effectively, translate the documents and make them available on a global basis in a consistent way,” said Jones.
“There are huge opportunities for document management in central and local government, particularly with recent initiatives around making information more readily available to the public,” said Jones.
“The information can be made more transparent and more available using document management technology and services.”
Blaik said organisations should understand how their documents fitted into their business processes before choosing a document management solution.
“Understanding how a document is accessed and used is crucial to understanding how the content management system can help,” he said. “Different people within one organisation can have different needs for one document. For example, when you put in a tax return, that document might be retrieved and used by many different people, so understanding the process and workflow is crucial when implementing the right system in the right way.”
Moore said the latest integrated document management systems were helping companies streamline and improve their business processes. “You probably will not want to change everything, but if you change two or three key things, you can get a much higher rate of return,” he said.
Tunney said some clients used document management systems to manage every single document that arrived into the organisation.
“As the post comes in the morning they scan it and electronically route it to the appropriate people within the organisation,” he said.
“That is where you are really getting great productivity and much faster delivery and accountability of what has come into the organisation.”
Intelligent recognition of the information within documents can make processes more productive, said Blaik.
“Rather than someone having to look at a piece of paper to see what boxes have been ticked, we can automatically push the relevant information to the right person to move things quickly to the next stage,” he said.
O’Neil l said some organisations preferred to purchase individually tailored document management systems that were built specifically with its business processes in mind.
“We tailor the solution to the company, and do not promote document management tools as such,” he said.
“We would know how the business works, for example insurance claims, documents and proposals. We would build business processes around that and supply the document management or workflow tools on the back of those. We would also integrate them into existing software the company is al ready using.”
Nuts and bolts
There can be a number of various hardware and software elements in an integrated content management solution.
“It depends on what the client is looking to achieve,” said Blaik. “If they are looking to produce imaging, they will need an input management solution. If they are looking to take paper away from a process, and automate that process, they are talking about automation and routing of documents, and that is process management. Information management can then make the right content available to the right person in the right way.”
Tunney said many document management systems did not require the purchase of specialised scanning equipment.
“Clients use desktop scanners or multi-function devices,” he said. “Mid range systems can scan at rates of 20 to 70 pages per minute now. As the documents are scanned they are stored on the server and can be accessed from the clients’ PCs. We would also have clients who scan their documents and make them available for viewing on the web. For instance the CAO would capture student application forms and make them available to the relevant university admissions departments via the web.”
To ensure easy retrieval, documents stored electronically are tagged with information including document name, type, origin, date created and the person who created it. Jones said it was important to ensure that this information is inputted correctly.
“If you are putting in poor information, there is no pixie dust inside these systems that make it better,” he said. “But if you design these systems properly, they can allow you to do a lot of error checking as you are entering the information.”
Pearse said the latest systems also allowed users to search inside the documents stored electronically.
“Advanced optical character recognition (OCR) and powerful full text indexing functionality can be used to easily and efficiently capture unstructured data,” he said. “Users can now carry out a Google-like search to find any unstructured data relating to their search. They will then be presented with any matches that they have sufficient permission to view.”
Even more sophisticated systems can also pull together and link documents and information, which at first glance may appear very disparate, according to Jones. “In a situation where there are large numbers of documents, including paper, e-mails, electronic documents and we have some technology that lets users search for links and inferences between what may seem to be completely different documents,” he said.
Security can be a huge issue for document management systems and policies, said O’Neill.
“Security is very important,” he said. “One of our systems encrypts and compresses the document on the file server itself. There is also an audit control on the system, so that every time the user looks at the document it is audited. There is a whole log of when it was accessed, who accessed it and was it changed or moved. If they do change it, they can check it back in as a new version.”
The full power of document management systems can only be harnessed if organisations link them with other information databases within the organisation, said Tunney.
“If you want to get the best out of your system it has to be integrated with whatever other systems your staff are using,” he said. “We would integrate with a range of accountancy software systems, so that invoices and proof of delivery dockets can be seen side by side.”
O’Neill said there can be challenges for off-the-shelf document management solutions to integrate fully with other systems.
“Sometimes the integration toolkit that comes with other products is not good enough, and it can take six months to a year to get it to integrate completely,” he said.
The costs of purchasing, installing and supporting document management systems and processes is conditional upon the size and scope of the solution required.
“The cost of systems varies from four to six figures depending on the size, complexity and number of users,” said Pearse.
Tunney said costs varied from customer to customer, but typically started at €5,000 for basic solutions, with more sophisticated systems costing €25,000 or more. Moore said a basic version of Microsoft’s Sharepoint solution was included in the standard Microsoft Small Business Server package, which is aimed at organisations with fewer than 50 PCs, while the cost of the full version is dependent on the number of users and different applications included.
The costs of digitising an organisation’s entire paper archive can be prohibitive, according to Jones, who said that it is generally not necessary to digitise everything in one go.
“It is quite expensive to scan 20 years’ worth of documents, when you might only need to access a fraction of a per cent of those over the next ten,” said Jones.
“We offer a services approach as opposed to a purely technology approach. We can take over the responsibility for their paper archive and as they need access to information from it, we digitise it for them.
“In the health sector, for example, if a particular patient record is requested, we would then digitise the whole of that patient’s record in one go, so that patient’s information is now available online.”
Jones said the service model could also be used for day-to-day document management.
“We can receive all of the incoming post for a company into one of our data centres, we will do the opening, sorting, scanning and indexing based on criteria agreed with the customer,” he said. “We can then send that information back to the customer electronically.”
Moving from paper to electronic documents can be a culture shock for an organisation. Blaik said change management is key to a successful transition.
“People may be used to filing paper in their cabinet, and accessing files in a certain way on their laptop,” he said. “Taking it on piece by piece, and department by department, it makes it easier.”
Blaik said scanning documents was only a step along the way to fully digital processes.
“I cannot see there ever being absolutely no paper in business. A better way of looking at it is to consider the creation of paperless processes, for example, the insurance claims process could become a lot less paper driven. The way consumers apply for a new mobile phone is becoming increasingly paperless.”
Paper is not being replaced, however, its role is just evolving.
“The electronic systems are becoming the master archive, and paper is becoming a more work-in-progress medium,” said Jones. “Documents are printed off so that people can read them on the train, or because a legal signature is important.”
“We are not eliminating paper yet,” said Tunney. “Maybe another couple of decades down the line.”
Sunday Business Post – Recruitment Pages – December 30 2007
Despite a severe drop in activity in the residential construction sector, there has been significant growth in most areas of recruitment over the past twelve months, writes Dermot Corrigan.
The pace of activity in the recruitment sector in Ireland has slowed, in response to fears over the state of the economy and the drop in construction activity nationwide.
Graham Morris, director of staffing with Manpower Ireland, said that recruitment in high-value sectors, including IT and financial services, remained buoyant. He added, however, that employers across the board were taking a more cautious approach to the recruitment process, with a more lengthy and in-depth interviewing and decision-making process.
“What we are seeing is the time to hire is increasing slightly – the time between when we receive a job and actually place it,” said Morris. “Companies are taking their time over hiring decisions as there are slightly more candidates out there at the moment.”
The most significant trend in Irish recruitment in 2007 was the severe drop in activity in the construction sector, according to Sinead Wallace, Grafton Recruitment’s regional manager for Dublin.
“In the last six months we have seen a massive dip in the construction sector, even for quite senior roles such as civil engineers and project managers,” said Wallace. “Previously, if they had registered with us, we would have had numerous interviews for them very quickly. Now, we have noticed that clients are really taking their time.”
The president of the National Recruitment Federation, Frank Collins, agreed that recruitment in residential construction was a problem. He added, however, that other areas were taking up the slack.
“The residential construction sector is way down, but there is still a considerable amount of construction activity going on in the civil area – in road building, office blocks and industrial premises,” said Collins. “The higher level skills – quantity surveyors, architects and engineers – are moving across. When it comes to people like plumbers, there may not be quite the same demand, however.”
Wallace said there had been significant growth in most other areas of recruitment in the past 12 months.
“The financial sector has still been growing steadily,” she said. “We definitely have not seen any slowdown. In fact, we are still recruiting internationally for banking, funds, insurance and other roles. They are still finding it hard to fill the gaps here.”
“The retail and services side of our business is definitely busier than last year,” Wallace said. “It has probably grown by about 30 per cent in 2007.”
Colman Collins, managing director, Collins McNicholas Recruitment & Human Resource Services Group, said that the most significant structural trend within the Irish recruitment sector in 2007 was the underperformance of general recruitment websites.
“The performance of job boards has dropped spectacularly this year,” said Collins. “We track all of our placements over the year, and the number of placements filled initially using jobs board has dropped by thirty per cent in one year, and that is representative of the industry. Candidates, especially those with experience, are no longer prepared to reply to job boards where the same job may be advertised by an employer and by several recruitment agencies.”
Frank Collins said that the past 12 months had seen a falling off in the number of overseas workers coming to Ireland to live and work, particularly from Eastern Europe.
“There has been a slight drop in the numbers of non-nationals coming into the economy,” said Collins. “The first wave of migrants, people who had emigration in mind, have moved already, and there have been plenty of jobs for them. The employment conditions and wage rates in their home countries have also improved.”
Wallace said she had seen an increase in demand for temporary staff across all sectors in the second half of 2007.
“Whenever there is a bit of a slowdown, our temp business starts to go up,” she said. “Where headcounts have been restrained, organisations are now taking in temps. They actually need people, but there has been a headcount freeze.”
Brian Murphy, managing director of the Premier Group in Ireland, said that in the current climate Irish organisations were more comfortable employing temporary staff.
“The Irish recruitment market is becoming more aware of the advantages of using temporary staff,” said Murphy. “In 2007 we had a large rise in temporary and contract staff across different sectors, including finance and office support. There is an element of ‘suck it and see’, take somebody for three months and test drive them, but more than that the market is becoming more used to the flexibility of temporary staff.”
Morris said that employers were looking for more skills and experience for new-hires than in previous years, even for lower-level positions.
“There is a definite trend away from low-skilled opportunities, such as call centre and unskilled manufacturing, and towards higher skilled employment,” he said. “Now, companies are looking for a slightly higher skillset, whether in technical support, team leading or managerial experience, so the mix has changed.”
Wallace said that the general election in May brought recruitment activity around the country to a temporary halt.
“May tends to be one of our busiest months, but last year, with the election, it was one of our quietest,” she said. “People did not know what to expect, and there was a definite dip in all sectors. Afterwards it just picked up again.”
Colman Collins said the Irish recruitment sector could be set for a shake-up in 2008, if the government goes ahead with possible plans to regulate the industry.
“The new Employment Agencies Act looks like becoming law early in 2008,” said Collins. “I would welcome that with open arms. There are over 700 recruitment industries in Ireland, which is madness in a country of 4.3 million people. Standards in the industry have continued to deteriorate with more and more agencies chasing fewer and fewer candidates. The new legislation will hopefully deter ‘chancers’ from joining the business and will hopefully help weed out some of the ones that are already in it.”
Year ahead looks solid
Frank Collins said the signs were that 2008 would be solid for the Irish recruitment industry, despite warnings of economic trouble ahead.
“There is a lot of talk of a downturn, but, in Ireland now, a downturn just means lower growth,” he said. “The media are a bit guilty of talking up a recession, but we are still facing larger economic growth than most European countries. This will lead to net job creation in 2008. We will place a minimum of 100,000 people into permanent jobs in 2008.”
Brian Flood, chief executive, PARC HR Services, agreed that Irish recruiters would be busy next year.
“We are expecting a growth in employment of about 1.5 per cent next year,” said Flood. “We are expecting the economy to grow at between two and three per cent. That means more activity than we have today. From the recruitment industry’s perspective I expect a reasonably buoyant year next year.”
Employers questioned in the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey said that they are less likely to hire new staff early next year than in previous years.
“At the moment, eight per cent of employers anticipate hiring more staff in the first quarter of 2008,” said Morris. “This time last year, that figure was 23 per cent. Irish employers have begun re-evaluating and it would seem that many – 87 per cent – are taking stock and hoping to sit out the ebb in the Irish economy by not making any changes to their staff numbers in the next three months at least.”
Most commentators said they expected balanced growth in employment in the Irish economy in 2008, with variations from sector to sector.
“Across our core markets of financial recruitment, office support recruitment, IT recruitment and technical recruitment, we expect to see different pressures with some sectors showing above average growth in 2008,” said Murphy. “Overall we expect recruitment to slow in the first half of 2008, but to pick up again in the second half.”
“Financial services will remain strong. Hospitality will be strong,” said Flood. “Much of the services areas associated with the new economy will be strong. The infrastructure side of the construction sector will remain strong, but the residential side will be where it is most difficult. I am not sure about manufacturing, the jury is still out there.”
“The industries with the strongest hiring intentions for the coming quarter are transport, storage and communication sector, electricity, gas and water and the pharmaceutical industry, which has predicted an employment outlook of 20 per cent for the coming quarter,” said Morris.
Frank Collins said that economic uncertainty could potentially make candidates more wary of moving job in early 2008.
“People get a little bit more conservative and, therefore, are more risk averse,” he said. “But anyone thinking of changing job or getting a better career, should not be worried about what they read. There are literally tens of thousands of jobs out there and people should not be afraid to move.”