Russia Tops Global Survey of Recruitment Confidence

Tremayne Elson
Regional Managing Director
Antal Russia

Recruitment activity in Russia is ahead of the rest of Europe and has now caught up with Russia’s BRIC counterparts: Brazil, China and India. According to a quarterly survey that Antal Russia contributed to, with responses from more than 6,000 companies in 30 countries, 71 percent of Russian-based companies are currently recruiting at the managerial / professional level. This is compared with a global average of 53 percent. Current activity in major global markets remains cautious (51 percent in Germany, 56 percent in the United States, 48 percent in Poland) and in some countries is suppressed with little optimism for the coming three months (30 percent in Spain, 28 percent in Hungary).

Employers in Russia were slow to react to the onset of the global crisis in the second half of 2008, with many firms unsure to what extent it would affect their businesses locally. As a result the first real evidence of cost reductions in headcount was seen in January 2009. A year ago only 42 percent of employers in Russia were actively recruiting staff, and at the same time 58 percent of companies were actively dismissing staff and 60 percent were anticipating letting even more managerial staff go in the coming quarter. This suggests that many firms were using the downturn as a good opportunity to improve the quality of their management teams by replacing weaker managers. This phenomenon was more pronounced in Russia, partly because of the relative ease with which many companies let staff go, sometimes not in complete compliance with labor legislation.

By May 2009 the number of companies recruiting had increased by 16 percent and by September last year by an additional 4 percent. The current figures show a 9 percent increase in activity compared with third quarter 2009 figures. This is in line with the general sentiment that by February 2009 most firms in most sectors had started to see cost savings coming through and were able to start building back. Some companies had actually cut back too much early in 2009 and this resulted in some rather urgent hiring to backfill, providing some unexpected recruitment activity in the second quarter of 2009. The banking, IT and retail sectors, however, all took longer to restructure or to start building back, and real estate and insurance have yet to show significant evidence or recovery in employment activity.

Russia has traditionally lagged slightly behind the other BRIC countries, but has now caught up and is on par. In the global media, Russia rarely takes the spotlight alongside Brazil, India and China because of the general negative press it receives. Although there is clearly a lot of work to do, especially in polishing its public image, Russia still presents one of the most exciting opportunities globally — a lot of the recruitment activity is from purely Russian firms, meaning that international firms may be missing some opportunities.

General economic sentiment drawn from macroeconomic data does not always reflect actual confidence levels held by companies on the ground. So, for example, in the United Kingdom where gross domestic product growth is anemic, many firms are actually cautiously confident and shrug off talk of a double-dip recession while some are actively investing in increasing headcount. Australia appears to have remained relatively isolated and is enjoying high confidence. Many firms are looking to more high growth potential regions to offset modest growth in their domestic markets, although currently talk is focused on Asia-Pacific, including China, more than Russia.

The prognosis for 2010 for the employment market is one of consistent growth of demand for the very best talent. As we start the year there are distinct sectors where demand is greater: Pharmaceuticals, fast moving consumer goods and even IT are seeing a boost as companies reinstate IT budgets and start spending again. Antal Russia predicts that by the end of 2010 we will see acute shortages for the best mid- to senior-level managers in accounting, HR and retail, as well as for experienced sales leaders. We are already seeing a disproportionate rise in demand for marketing, legal and certain investment banking roles. As other sectors of the Russian economy come back on stream, this will further inflate demand in what has always been an employment market scarce on top talent.