By Chuang Peck Ming
SINGAPORE - Has last year's tight labour market - unemployment stood a 14-year low of 2 per cent - soaked up all the good men and women, with only mediocre pickings left for employers looking to hire?
Hiring expectations here have fallen sharply from 2011.
Nasdaq-listed recruitment firm Hudson's latest survey showed that 42 per cent of employers were planning to grow their headcounts this quarter, down from 61 per cent this time last year.
The quarterly survey covered more than 600 executives in five sectors: banking and financial services; healthcare and life sciences; information technology and telecommunications (IT&T); consumer, advertising and media; and manufacturing and industrial.
For workers taken on recently, employers lamented that more than half were "average" (39 per cent) or "bad" (15 per cent) - more than in Hong Kong, according to the survey released yesterday.
Only 46 per cent of the employees recruited are deemed "good", with variations among sectors.
The manufacturing and industrial sector had the biggest pool of "good" hires, with almost half - 49 per cent - of the workers employed falling into that category.
For the consumer, advertising and media sector, the figure is 42 per cent, the lowest.
"Good employees are becoming more elusive, leaving companies engaged in a tough war for talent as they seek to remain competitive in an increasingly difficult market environment," the report said.
Of 10 consequences likely to happen with bad hiring, employers are most concerned with four - the impact on staff morale (51 per cent); cost of back-filling the role (49 per cent); productivity loss (47 per cent); and opportunity costs (46 per cent).
"These issues are also regarded as the most significant problems in China and Hong Kong," the report noted.
The other possible concerns are impact on team work and engagement (36 per cent); impact on customer service (16 per cent); sales loss (13 per cent); fall in earnings (11 per cent); a black mark for the recruitment manager (9 per cent); and loss of customers (7 per cent).
Around 68 per cent of employers believe that robust hiring practices will make a big difference in successful hiring and staff performance, said the report.
The survey said hiring expectations were lowest in the banking and financial services sector in the current quarter. At 34 per cent, they reflect the biggest drop from a year ago when the figure was 59 per cent.
"The second quarter is typically a busy hiring period after bonus payouts," the report said. "So the latest figures emphasise the steep decline in recruitment."
Hiring prospects have also fallen sharply in the healthcare and life sciences sector, to 44 per cent from 67 per cent.
The same is true in the IT&T sector, which posted the smallest fall - from 65 per cent to 56 per cent.
"MNCs have continued to invest in Singapore and a large number of foreign start-ups (in IT&T) are setting up base here, creating new job opportunities," noted the report.
Though overall hiring expectations in this quarter have tumbled from a year ago, they remain steady compared with the past two quarters - 42 per cent in the final quarter of 2011 and 44 per cent in the first quarter of this year.
Only 6 per cent of bosses are looking to cut hiring this quarter, in line with the previous quarter's 7 per cent, leading the report to conclude that overall hiring expectations "are currently stable".
This article was first published in The Business Times.