It’s a bad time to be hiring in New Zealand. Closed borders and record job ads are causing squeezes in almost every industry, inflation is pushing salaries up, and employers can no longer get away with providing cheap plonk on a Friday to tick the well-being box.

To make matters worse, it’s not just against other New Zealand businesses that you are competing for good people. Forward-thinking international organisations are now happy for their staff to work from anywhere, regardless of whether it’s just down the road or in another country. 

Recent research conducted by our recruitment company, PERSOLKELLY, shows that well over half of all Kiwis (60%) would consider working remotely for an organisation based overseas; the percentage is even higher for under-35s, at 78%. And while the brain drain has morphed into the brain gain for New Zealand during covid, there’s no doubt this trend is under threat with foreign firms’ offer of remote work. 

The pandemic hasn’t completely stemmed the flow of Kiwis wanting to head overseas for professional reasons, either – almost one in three under-35s still plan to fly the coop in the next few years, likely in pursuit of better earning potential and competitive packages. 

It’s not all bad news, though, if you as an employer are willing to adjust your perspective on what makes a happy employee and act to protect your best people from the digital brain drain – by adopting the following approach, for example: 

Define your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Recruits are looking to join and stay with organisations that have a clear purpose that is relatable and meaningful. They need a set of simple core values that provide a behavioural framework for all employees, always. In addition to this, give them a set of strategic pillars that provide a company pathway – a business plan where they can see how their role contributes to the plan or the vision.  This provides true value to employees long term

Be forward thinking. Doing what you’ve always done means you will sink in the current market. Offer team members (especially those planning a move overseas) the chance to work remotely. They’ve proven they can do it in a lockdown, and those leaving our shores already know the ins and outs of your business, so why lose good people over a change of postcode?

Think about the perks they might get working for an overseas company – better pay, working from home, or a nine-day fortnight – and offer those here before they start looking for greener pastures. If you can’t afford a pay jump, double down on the other things that make the New Zealand lifestyle worthwhile, such as an allowance to cover the odd email or phone call outside work hours.

Conduct regular engagement surveys to understand the connectivity across the business. Workforce planning is critical – identifying internal talent, and staff you are at risk of losing.

Build a social contract to keep your people connected, with shared values and actions to create connectivity and consistency. We host weekly Town Halls – particularly important during covid – to connect all staff on camera with updates across the business.

If you feel the local talent pool in your industry really has run dry, look to broaden your recruitment drive beyond New Zealand’s borders, offering remote-working opportunities to potential staff living overseas. This could be especially worthwhile if you’re in a niche market like gaming or space, where qualified, locally based Kiwis may be few and far between.  

There’s a large pool of very talented candidates who are now au fait with Zoom, Teams, and all the other workflow management tools that might even boost your bottom line. These candidates also bring refreshed thinking, diversity of experience and often a wider skill set, having worked for large and complex organisations. 

To make this work requires forward thinking and a willingness to adopt strategies that are the norm overseas, such as allowing employees to pick their hours or even having a staggered work week. 

When turning your eye to the global talent pool, consider these key points to make sure you’re set up for success. 

  1. Use the network and connections of your local recruitment company to facilitate introductions to highly regarded recruiters overseas. Working with organisations that have outposts in other regions is a great first point of call. Make sure you’re clear on your non-negotiables in terms of skills and experience for the role, and when you find the right person, be ready to move.
  2. Consider cultural differences and employment legislation in the region where your candidate lives. What challenges does cross-country management pose to your business, and how will you facilitate a feeling of belonging, 
  3. Put in place policies and employment contract clauses that deal with delicate issues such as social media. An in-depth onboarding process is crucial to ensure the individual has a full understanding of your company’s culture, business plans and operating models. 
  4. The first 90 days is critical. Induction must be well thought through and emphasis put on integrating the new employee into the team. Implement daily 15- to 20-minute catch-ups and weekly one-on-ones, and ensure communication is always open, with accessibility to their direct manager. A buddy is strongly recommended. 
  5. Be clear about short-term objectives within the first 90 days and have a reporting mechanism to be discussed weekly/monthly to give the new employee a sense of achievement. Likewise, present the recruit with a formal engagement plan to ensure they e-meet all key stakeholders company-wide.

Wendy Hewson is the New Zealand general manager of insight-driven recruitment firm PERSOLKELLY. To understand the shifting priorities of employees and employers in a post-covid world, read more on PERSOLKELLY’s 2021 Workforce Insights Report