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HR Opportunities in the Economic Downturn

This month has seen a significant slow-down in hiring activity for HR positions across the region. Most major corporations have frozen non-essential new HR headcount, and some have taken the drastic step of freezing what would in normal circumstances be viewed as essential headcount. In these companies, HR headcount expansion is now only authorised when approval comes from as high up the food chain as the Global HR Head or, in rare cases, the Global CEO. In other cases, HR headcount is being re-specified to incorporate particular expertise in skills such as change management, workforce redeployment and employee communications.

The Chapman Consulting Group is also noticing search processes on existing roles becoming more complicated. We have seen some top-level HR roles in the region be scaled back to more ‘operational’ levels. We have seen some HR positions become “double-hatted”, where often HR Generalists are being asked to take on extra responsibilities for specialist functions such as Recruitment or Organisational Development. Organisations are increasingly trying to use internal candidates wherever they can in order to avoid internal redundancies and external recruitment expenditure. The worsening economic downturn is affecting HR hiring in all markets across the region, particularly Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and now, Singapore. China is still showing the greatest activity, but there is concern that HR hiring here could also slow into 2009.

Notwithstanding the above, The Chapman Consulting Group remains active on quite a number of HR searches with a number of ‘bright star’ companies across the region, primarily in Life Sciences and in Industrial sectors such as Oil & Gas. Some Technology companies are also using the recent market turbulence to hire key new talent into their organisations. Most Banking and Financial Services institutions, however, are initiating broad recruitment freezes.

Leaner, medium-sized organisations are better positioned than larger multinationals in the current market, as they often have greater flexibility to reallocate resources to where they are most needed. While we are still working closely with a number of larger multinationals, these medium-sized companies are accounting for most of our HR hiring activity at the moment. Such companies, the same that in recent years have had difficulties in attracting talent into their organisations, are now tapping into our networks to reach out to top-grade HR practitioners around the region.

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