Hiring trends in tough market conditions

11th April 2016

Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback on my article in Gulf News – CEO Report. Here’s a transcript of the article in case you missed it.

Gulf News, CEO Report, March 2016

Hiring trends in tough market conditions

Whilst the volume of mandates coming in is high, the decision-making process with clients is slowing, says Justin McGuire, CEO, MCG Group.

With the impact of low oil prices being felt across the globe, the job market in the Middle East is beginning to feel the pinch. Now, more than ever, companies are forced to look at ways to maximise workforce efficiency by ensuring they hire the right people for the right roles. For MCG Group, a Dubai-based search and recruitment agency, the ability to diversify its offerings to suit market needs has meant that, despite the tough market conditions, it remains business as usual.

“As a group, we never actually recruited in the energy sectors so were fortunate to avoid the rapid decline in staffing requirements this sector has felt,” explains MCG Group CEO, Justin McGuire, who heads up a team of 22 specialists that help companies grow their business through robust talent management strategies. “However, I wouldn’t say we are totally immune to what is going on and the trickle down effect is being marginally felt by some sectors the MCG Group recruits in, such as retail and FMCG.”

Whilst the volume of mandates coming in is high, an observation across the MCG Group is that the decision-making process is slower with clients. “All positions are taking much longer than usual to close so if you’re looking for a new role, patience is certainly required,” says McGuire. “From the outset, candidates need to be aware that they could be in the process for between one and two months, on average. Clients are now taking their time, conducting more interviews and seeing more people.”

Investing in the team

MCG Associates, the core recruitment business for MCG Group, continues to grow with all business units seeing a steady number of mandates coming through the door.

“With the agency now six years old and very well established, we are fortunate to have long established relationships and to be the preferred suppliers for most leading advertising, digital, PR, brand and activation agencies,” explains McGuire, who has more than 15 year’s experience in the media, advertising and recruitment industry behind him. “Our creative team have built a new department for one leading advertising agency and our digital, IT and tech team continues to pickup new clients almost daily.”

MCG Associates plan to invest further in the digital, IT and tech team as clients continue to buy into their credibility and market knowledge, which is an exciting growth market for the business.

“We’re working on some very senior communications positions in sectors such as travel, hospitality, manufacturing and technology, and we have grown our digital and tech team to a headcount of seven at MCG Associates, bringing in specialists in IT, development and sales and search,” McGuire notes.

The company has added an experienced consultant with executive search background to also help build MCG Associates’ client-side marketing, communications and strategy division.

“Our PR team is very well established, so the volume of roles is high and the team is delivering consistency, as it always has,” says McGuire.

Kemistry, the group’s agency dedicated to finding talent in the HR, finance, accounting and business support sectors, has started the year well with a high volume of finance and accounting positions, while HR demand remains sluggish across the region.

“The business is expecting March to be our best since starting the agency eight months ago and we are excited by our regional growth and now have live positions in Qatar, Kuwait, KSA and Bahrain,” says McGuire. “Kemistry also recently launched a legal unit and demand, especially within in-house law, has been high, meaning we are busier than ever.”

Growth of flexible workforces

One trend picking up pace for 2016 is the introduction of flexible working hours, and engaging employees on a contract or freelance basis. Particularly in the UAE, with most free zones offering cost effective business licence and visa options for freelancers, employers now have a the option of utilizing a flexible workforce.

“The freelance market in the UAE is growing and our clients are also open to employees working flexible hours. At MCG Group, we have one consultant who works for us three days a week – so there is your proof,” says McGuire. “I certainly see this as an interesting growth market for the recruitment sector.”

As many companies look for ways to reduce labour and capital costs, some are considering outsourcing their recruitment processes to tighten the purse strings. However, while outsourcing works well for bulk hiring or for those with restrictions on head-counts, McGuire says that MCG Group are yet to experience a marked move towards this trend with their clients in the Middle East.

New horizons

MCG Group continues to progress with its expansion plans and, with their international offices moving closer to completion and three new brands soon to be launched, the development of RPO and search offering remains a priority for the group.

“We are all very excited about our plans and, to help support this growth, we hired a new business and innovation manager, with further hires soon to be announced across our business units,” says McGuire.

With the group eying up new markets in Europe and Asia, they are keeping a close look at the market performance in specific areas, such as the digital and communications space. While the markets in China may have slowed down, McGuire believes there are numerous opportunities to capitalise from. “Let’s not forget that our business was set up in 2010, during the worst financial crisis since the great depression; our business was designed to withstand these types of challenges and to find opportunities where others may struggle,” McGuire adds.

DMCG Network Offices