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There won't be big staff cutbacks this year, but it's also unlikely that there will be strong growth in hiring at any level of organizations, according to two new surveys of hiring managers.

Senior executives will be in greater demand in North America than in many parts of the world, but there's less optimism about growth in management hiring than there was a year ago, according to an international survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

Forty-three per cent of recruiters said they expect executive search activity will increase this year, but that was lower than the two-thirds who were optimistic in 2011. Over all, 37 per cent of recruiters expected corporate growth, 47 per cent were neutral and the rest expect contractions in many industries. The biggest growth areas are expected to be energy and natural resources, health care and life sciences, and manufacturing. And Canada and the United States were expected to have among the brightest prospects, the survey found.

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Meanwhile, few Canadian employers expect significant hiring – but at least they don't foresee staff cutbacks in the year ahead, a survey by staffing service Right Management found.

Only 9 per cent of 182 senior executives polled anticipate significant cutbacks or restructurings, and 86 per cent expect almost none, with the rest seeing modest downsizing.

There was some optimism about increased hiring if the Canadian economy continues to improve, with 19 per cent predicting significant hiring to drive strategic growth; 59 per cent expecting to add positions as needed; and 22 per cent saying they will hire only to fill gaps that develop due to staff changes.

Staffing trends will mirror overall Canadian economic trends, said Bram Lowsky, Right Management's group executive vice-president, Americas. "We'll see employers push growth, but with fewer resources, trying to make do with what they have," he said, adding that "lean staffing is now the norm at most organizations."

As for executive hiring, "It's no surprise that the outlook for this year in terms of demand for senior executives should be less optimistic than at the same time last year, given the economic turbulence of the past six months and the continued pessimism surrounding growth rates in China and the European Union," commented AESC president Peter Felix.

In the AESC survey, China still topped the list of emerging markets that will have strong need for executive talent, followed by Brazil and India.

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About the Author

Wallace Immen is an award-winning staff writer for The Globe and Mail whose stories about workplace trends and career advice, as well as about cruising and travel destinations around the world appear regularly in print and on-line. He has worn many hats in his career with the Globe, including science writer, medical writer and columnist, urban affairs reporter and travel writer. More

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