A Rock in Stormy Waters

That's what recruiters said in a biannual survey of headhunting firms conducted by The Moscow Times. The first half of 2011 saw growth that plateaued in the second half as Western firms tightened their wallets under the strain of the debt crisis. This year started out with a pickup in hiring activity, and the outlook is positive, they said via e-mail.

The European sovereign debt crisis has brought Greece to near default as deep-seated economic strains in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy ­hinder recovery from the 2008-09 downturn.

In 2012 salaries are expected to rise within the level of inflation — no more than 8 percent, said an Ancor recruiter. 

"Despite an overall rise in unemployment around the world, the Russian labor market is mostly showing stability brought about by a relatively calm economic environment," with stable growth in the number of vacancies, said Maria Agapova, operations manager at recruitment firm Flex Search.

So far, the job market is even better than in the first half of last year, said Michael Germershausen, managing director at staffing firm Antal Russia.

"Recruitment has seen a strong increase in vacancies during the first two months of 2012 compared with the same period last year," Germershausen said.

"Most companies that are letting people go at the moment are either globally heavily affected by the turmoil in some parts of the world or they are simply working on efficiency improvements," Germershausen said. "If the current economic situation remains, the forecast for the labor market in 2012 is quite optimistic."

Who's in Demand

IT specialists, marketing professionals and business-to-business salespeople are some of the most sought-after roles at present, recruiters said. The leading industries in terms of hiring rates are e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, fast-moving consumer goods and banking.

"The largest work force deficit is being experienced by the IT sector," said Maria Safronova, a senior recruitment consultant at Flex. "There is a lack of IT specialists because the number of graduates is many times less than [the number] needed by companies. Especially in-demand are IT project managers, web architects, web developers and content managers."

IT specialists are needed in many industries, Antal's Germershausen agreed.

"There are a lot of openings for SAP [enterprise software] consultants, programmers, IT managers and chief information officers," he said.

In the pharmaceutical sector, one of the most demanded roles is clinical research specialist, said Yekaterina Gorokhova, general director of staffing firm Kelly Services. Blue-collar workers are also hard for firms to come by due to deterioration of the vocational school system and low wages, she added.

Meanwhile, Staffwell is seeing rising demand in the pharmaceutical sector for business development directors and senior marketing managers, said the recruitment firm's operations director, Yelena Sidorenko.

"Demand for specialists remains high, but competition is tough," Sidorenko said. "We are more and more often coming across positions that combine several functions and thus require professional experience and immediate knowledge of various fields of the pharmaceutical industry."

Some headhunters saw a growing need to fill managerial positions in other industries, as well.

"Russian businesses still lack a critical mass of leadership — that is, managerial types who are ready to take on responsibility and make managerial decisions," said Sergei Gadetsky, country director at staffing firm Ancor. "This is a characteristic of the majority of domestic industries, such as fast-moving consumer goods, where managerial experience is taken from Western companies."

Staffwell sees a lack of managers only in production and knowledge-intensive sectors. These are areas where, "in addition to strong managerial qualities, a deep understanding of modern technologies and expertise in a particular means of production is required," Sidorenko said.

To live in constant fear of an economic crisis means to lose the battle for market share to a braver competitor, said the general director of Kelly Services.

Last year, Staffwell filled many positions in Moscow and St. Petersburg for controllers, sales department heads and general, commercial, financial and logistics directors in sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods, oil and gas, and insurance, she said.

Accounting and finance positions associated with calculating expenditures and cost-cutting were also in high demand last year, said Svetlana Chernysheva, a senior recruitment consultant at Flex.

Among marketing professionals, brand managers are the most in-demand, Germershausen said.

"I would say that a lack of highly qualified specialists is felt across all the professional disciplines," he added. "That is the reason why companies are ready to pay more to a candidate who fully matches all the requirements."

"Companies are looking for candidates who have successful sales experience in the same sector, their own client database and a good level of English," Germershausen said.

Market Growth and Tension

"The situation on the labor market remains tense due to the general economic environment," said Sonya Kotova, a recruitment consultant at Flex Search. "Multinational companies and their workers are locked in a holding pattern. There is no strong rise or fall in demand for workers."

Kotova echoed Sidorenko of Staffwell in noting the trend of combining separate job duties into a new position.

"The vacancies that are arising on the market often incorporate several functions to save money," she said.

Nonetheless, the "holding pattern" will likely give way to growth, Kotova said.

"In many industries, especially the financial sector, this waiting is connected with the process of approving the annual budget for recruitment, as well as paying bonuses for 2011," she said. "These two factors will lead to growth in activity on the labor market, from both employers and job-hunters."

Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization could also cause changes on the job market, according to Kotova. The country's accession to the global free-trade union could happen as soon as fall of this year.

"Entering the WTO will lead to increased competition on the Russian market," said Ancor's Gadetsky. "Companies will have to compete for qualified personnel, to headhunt valuable employees. In many sectors new positions will open up, such as in the industrial sector."

Although the job market is coming off a year of growth, it has also experienced some stagnation, recruiters said.

By mid-2011 the labor market reached pre-crisis levels for most industries, and the number of vacancies opened by the end of the year practically equaled that of the pre-crisis period, Ancor's Gadetsky noted.

"In 2011, the number of requests by employers for hiring personnel increased 25 percent versus the year before, which to a high degree is explained by deferred demand for personnel following the crisis," he said.

"But considering the economic environment in Russia and throughout the world, this growth turned out to be insignificant," Gadetsky added. "On average, salaries in Russia rose no more than 8 percent."

Gorokhova of Kelly Services said it's still too soon to talk about a full economic recovery.

"I would divide the year into two equal parts," she said. "The first half showed slight growth. We filled about 10 to 15 percent more vacancies than during the same period a year earlier. The industries that provided the bulk of orders were banking, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. In the second half of the year, the intensity of orders dropped off. A portion of banks that had been developing their retail segment completely left the Russian market."

Ancor's Gadetsky also saw the year as divided into two dissimilar halves, with fall 2011 seeing "market stagnation linked to the global economic environment," he said.

"Despite a lack of obvious indicators of a recession or massive layoffs, labor market tension has been felt by employers as well as job-seekers," he explained. "Such tension is exemplified by the cautious approach to any investment. Companies, primarily Western ones, have not stopped hiring new personnel nor have they canceled projects for which the ball has already started rolling, but they are still in savings mode."

Antal's Germershausen characterized 2011 as a continuation of labor market development and moderate growth.

"Despite various forecasts about a new economic recession, the situation on the labor market was quite positive last year," he said.

"A lot of vacancies for various specialists were opened; the companies were ready to headhunt the best candidates from their competitors by offering them more attractive conditions," Germershausen added. "Candidates were quite active in considering new jobs."

Optimistic Outlook for 2012

Despite the steady rise in vacancies predicted for 2012, Gadetsky did not expect explosive market growth and a large amount of new jobs, nor expansive salary increases.

"Western companies, which we primarily work with, have an especially heightened perception of risks and are more cautious about hiring personnel as well as downsizing," he said.

"Business in this economic environment is not conducive to long-term investments in any asset, including in personnel. This is why in 2012 salaries will rise within the level of inflation — no more than 8 percent," he added.

Gorokhova of Kelly Services was a bit more optimistic, noting that competition will keep companies from being too cautious in hiring.

"We ask all of our clients about how they feel about their business, and every one of them has positive plans — to open new restaurants, to increase production," Gorokhova said. "To live in constant fear of an economic crisis means to lose the battle for market share to a braver competitor. No one can allow oneself do this, and no one wants to. So there are reasons for optimism, and I think 2012 should be good for Russian business in general."

"The Russian market today looks much more attractive for business than most European markets," she said.

The Moscow Times

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