Executive recruitment is slowing, says survey

If you're considering moving to a new job, do it now. The market outlook for new managerial hiring is not upbeat.
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If so, try to secure a new job now, as you wonÆt be pleased to hear that hiring expectations in the region are down, according to the latest Hudson Report, which provides insight into the expectations of organisations across all industries and job disciplines.

The Hudson Report surveys more than 2,600 executives from key business sectors in Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. The survey for the third quarter of 2008 demonstrates that hiring expectations are falling in all the markets surveyed except China. In China, 55% of respondents anticipate higher recruitment in this quarter, up from 52% in the second quarter.

However, expectations are falling most sharply in Hong Kong, where 42% plan to increase hiring, compared with 57% in the previous quarter; Japan reports a fall from 55% forecasting headcount growth last quarter to 46% this quarter. Expectations are falling less steeply in Singapore: 43% forecast increased hiring this quarter, compared with 49% in the previous quarter.

The bright side, at least from the employeesÆ perspective, is that the scope to reduce salaries for new managerial hires in the current economic climate is still limited. Across all the markets surveyed, few respondents say that the current economic climate is allowing them to negotiate lower salaries for new managerial hires. In Hong Kong, for example, across all sectors, only 13% say they can hire quality managers for less than they previously had to pay. Within the financial sector, though, the number goes up: roughly 19% say they can pay less thanks to the global credit crunch and the hiring freeze implemented by many international banks. But still, 81% say you still have to offer substantial pay packets to get quality managers, which isnÆt a bad percentage.

ôAlthough hiring expectations are levelling off after a buoyant 2007, there is a continuing shortage of talent,ö says Mark Carriban, managing director, Asia, Hudson. ôEmployers are still faced with both rising salaries for new managerial hires and high staff turnover rates.ö

Indeed, across all sectors in Hong Kong and China, 71% of respondents say they have not seen a reduction in turnover in the last year; and in Japan and Singapore while turnover is slowing, itÆs not by much with 61% of respondents in Japan and 66% in Singapore saying turnover hasnÆt slowed. Obviously, people are still finding better opportunities elsewhere. As a result, companies need to continue to woo staff with the extras. Performance-related bonuses remain the lure of choice, but offering more training and a better work/life balance are incentives increasingly used.

When searching for staff, 56% of the respondents in Hong Kong say they are looking for talent overseas û but that number is even higher in the banking world, where 60% say they attract talent from abroad, and 77% of the legal community that responded to the survey say they have been hiring foreigners. This of course, has been demonstrated in recent months in FinanceAsiaÆs People Moves section, where we have reported on an influx of managing directors at banks and legal partners coming from London and New York to Asia, in part, because thereÆs more business opportunities here than in the subprime plagued West.

Of course, surveys are one thing, actions are another. Consider the airline industry.

Hong Kong managers need only look over the border at their brethren in China for a recent high-profile example of a managerial pay-cut. On July 17, China Southern Airlines, the nation's largest carrier, announced that it would cut the pay of Chairman Liu Shaoyong and other executives by 10% as of July to help offset jet-fuel costs that have almost doubled in a year. Liu was paid Rmb751,000 ($110,000) last year, including pension contributions, according to the company's annual report.

Compare that to the pay packet for Tony Tyler, chief executive officer of Cathay Pacific Airways. He took home HK$11 million ($1.4 million), including benefits and bonuses last year.

Analysts say LiuÆs pay-cut, from a comparatively lower base than his Hong Kong colleague, sends a message to consumers that the company really is trying to come to grips with soaring fuel charges that have been driving airline ticket prices sky high. The message to customers: weÆll take some pain too.

Indeed, thatÆs a message that often is also sent out when heads start rolling. Consider the announcement on July 18 from Qantas AirwaysÆ CEO Geoffrey Dixon. He said that Australia's largest airline would freeze executive pay. He made that announcement when he also said Qantas would cut 1,500 jobs.
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