This article was originally featured on the AFR website on the 29th of June 2016.
Australia’s executive jobs market improved by 4 per cent in the month of June, but recruiters are warning it’s not all “champagne times”, with the overall level of demand sitting at the lowest in five years.
Executive search firm Ambition managing director Nick Waterworth said the “super temp”, where senior executives take on interim roles, was growing fast and would continue to surge in the coming months.
“In the last 12 months that market has matured fast,” Mr Waterworth said.
“Organisations are turning to these ‘super temps’ instead of going to consulting firms. But we haven’t scratched the surface of this idea in Australia yet, it’s here to stay.”
Mr Waterworth said while the market wasn’t “all champagne times”, there was demand on the east coast for executives, especially those with e-commerce skills.
“This is applying more broadly not just to retailers looking for C-suite candidates with these skills, but bricks and mortar companies are realising there are opportunities to embrace digital technology. They want this skill in new hires from anything from the mid-level in marketing and IT up to people at the board and advisory level.”
Mr Waterworth said demand for these skills was greater than supply.
He said when it came to hiring non-executive directors, chairs and nominating committees were focused on skills, in contrast to recent focuses on culture.
Mr Waterworth said there was also a gap in the market for CIO, CEO and CFO candidates who were really willing to embrace and drive change within companies.
“Many candidates say they are happy with change but when it comes to it, a very small number can actually deal with and run a change agenda,” Mr Waterworth said.
“CFOs who are genuine change agents who can truly embrace change and be the catalyst of it are in demand.”
According to an Australian executive jobs index by search firm E.L Consult, the number of executive jobs was up 4 per cent in the month of June.
In June, every other state and region were strong for executive jobs growth apart from NSW.
However, NSW has been getting stronger for most of this year so the report argues it could be simply a reversion to the mean. NSW’s demand is now twice Victoria’s and provides half the entire nations executive opportunities.
The financial sector fell a further 1 per cent in June compared to the month of May, but the management sector increased by 9 per cent in June.
However, the Brexit, weakness in the US economy and the Australian federal election have all weighed heavily on business confidence, with the Demand Index near its lowest level for five years.
E.L Consult managing director Grant Montgomery said the mild gains in May and June indicated the local economy was going “OK”, but there were significant uncertainties.
“The E.L Index is not breaking any records and is near its lowest level of the past five years,” Mr Montgomery said.
“It’s really just bouncing off the bottom. Brexit and the Australian federal election both have the potential to change the economic landscape making employers very cautious about committing to higher salaried executive employment decisions.
“The influence of the Federal election on uncertainty is waning. It has been going so long that employers have decided that they need to keep on going regardless. Employers are in an expansionary mindset but acting in a reasonably consistent fashion.”
Korn Ferry Australasia managing director Katie Lahey said there were still plenty of “big roles”, with chief executives at top listed companies remaining on average between four and five years, rather than 10 years.
“There is a churn at the top organisations, that’s still happening,” Ms Lahey said.
“I think with the Brexit we will see a bigger candidate pool in Australia with expats over there and the British opening up to opportunities in Australia.”