Industry spotlight on HR and recruitment

The introduction of new health and safety laws last year caused a spike in demand for skilled human resources professionals to assist with compliance.

Now that new policies are in place within organisations across New Zealand, experts say there is a growing need for HR talent to embed health and safety into their workplace culture.

SEEK job ads for the HR and recruitment industry increased by 32% in February compared to the same time last year and the average advertised salary was $81,013. There have been high levels of job ads for the industry relative to the past five years and this trend has remained the same for the past four months.

Iain MacGibbon, managing director of recruitment firm Farrow Jamieson, says health and safety laws have had an impact on demand. “Many companies have had to beef up their HR resources to manage the new regulations but we’re also seeing a greater focus on employee retention programs, brand values and workplace culture,” he says. “This is all driving demand for talent.”


Focus on workplace safety

SEEK job ads for occupational health and safety roles increased by 9% year-on-year in February. The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), which came into effect from April 4 last year shifted the focus from monitoring and recording health and safety incidents to proactively identifying and managing risks to promote the health of New Zealand workers.

“The image of heath and safety has changed,” says Kelly Wilson, director at specialist HR recruitment firm ProgressionHR. “There’s a greater focus now on making it a natural, day-to-day part of working life and this means HR professionals need more than an understanding of the new laws. They also need the ability to coach and to build a cultural change.”



Boost for training and development

Occupational health and safety was not the only area of the HR profession to experience a lift in SEEK job ads in February. Training and development also increased by 24% year-on-year in February. MacGibbon says candidates are placing greater value on employers who invest in their career development. This is driving growth in demand for HR talent with a creative approach to career progression.

“Millennials in particular are looking for career advancement and to build on their skills,” he explains. “If they don’t feel they’re getting that, they’re likely to move on. They are confident that they can leave and get another job, and they are right. Companies have recognised this and are looking more closely at training, career progression and skill development. That’s causing this lift in demand within HR.”

“Employees are looking for mentors and coaches,” adds Wilson. “HR professionals are responsible for building this into workplace culture.”



Remuneration roles on the rise

SEEK job ads for remuneration and benefits roles also increased in February. MacGibbon says that while many companies are seeking external advice for salary benchmarks, remuneration reviews are happening more frequently as the market moves. “Companies are now often looking at it every six months because areas of skills shortage are moving faster than an annual review can cope with,” he explains.

Internal recruitment roles also saw a 28% year-on-year lift in SEEK job ads while agency recruitment grew by 33% over the same period. Audrey Noakes, managing director of recruitment-to-recruitment specialist Talentify, is seeing new roles being created in this space.

“We’re seeing a growth in new positions rather than just filling existing vacancies and that’s leading to greater demand,” she explains. “We’re seeing companies recruiting for skill sets that they think they’ll need in two or three years from now so they are ahead of the market. I also think we’ll see a growth in demand for technology skills as recruiters capture more data about their audience.”



Commercial acumen in demand

While consulting and generalist HR roles saw a 45% rise in job ads compared to the same time last year, Wilson says many large organisations are restructuring their HR department to create a more specialised model. “New Zealand has a lot of small-to-medium businesses, so HR people have had to be a jack of all trades,” she explains. “The bigger organisations are reviewing their HR structure and this is also creating a new level of contract roles.”

MacGibbon adds that employers can expect greater competition for HR talent with a solid understanding of business imperatives. “There is a real push for commercial and risk-mitigation skills,” he explains. “This is not only important in terms of the new health and safety laws but also in terms of staff turnover, which presents a very real risk to business. HR is now managing more risks than it previously did and I think we’ll see more competition for talent with this key skill.”

If competition for HR talent increases, Noakes says employers must have a smooth recruitment process to secure the best candidates.  “Employers will need to make decisions quickly, especially if they have the ideal candidate in front of them.”



The latest data shows job ads in New Zealand were up by 17.3% compared to the same time last year. Find out more in this month’s SEEK Employment Trends summary.