New Zealand is in a talent war. Those on the frontline of recruiting know it. Even with a current downturn in the advertised job market, this challenge is not easing in our view. Looking at the numbers, the December 2022 quarter saw a national decline in job advertising by 4.2% compared to the previous quarter. Traditional growth areas such as the Auckland job market, IT and construction jobs all fell. Job ads increased across provincial New Zealand. So, there is some easing of the market but not much, and not in all areas of scarcity.
In my work with Tribe across Executive and Board Recruitment and confidential advisory services, it is not just about placing the numbers of vacancies, but about the quality of candidates too. Because of the talent shortage I am seeing a number of situations where people in the mid-management band are taking jobs for a short period of time and then jumping ship for a higher paid job. They are like skipping stones on the lake of the job market, and what they don’t realise is that when they touch senior levels, this short-termism will come home to roost in their career.
Avoid the skipping stones!
At the moment, I believe that there is an over-emphasis on ‘leadership’ and under-emphasis on ‘management’. The pendulum has swung too far toward leadership. The skipping stones speak the narrative that their “leadership is recognised by frequent promotions”. However, performance in an organisation is also about time and experience in management of staff, alignment of staff work-programmes to the strategic and business plans, and P&L management. In the talent shortage, the desire to fill a seat with a warm body can’t override good sense. The risk of a person with insufficient time in management is too high for their direct manager. Being blunt, I won’t place skipping stones that put too much risk on organisations because they didn’t spend the time to develop their management skills. I have a message to these job seekers – stay.
I also have two messages for Chief Executives. The first is – get back in control of your HR framework. In settled times the language of ‘internal relativity of salaries’ works. In times of choppy waters where bleeding good talent - or needing to attract the right quality of talent to be successful – we are in the language of ‘benchmarking salaries to the external market’ to stay competitive. We advise to be agile over remuneration and retention payments, add in relocation etc, and even old-school payments for accommodation.
My second message to Chief Executives is – get in control of creating a culture that engages your staff. Many candidates are well-informed about your business – we’re a small country. Actually, it is more accurate to say that many candidates are well-informed about the chatter regarding your business by their own networks. When I was a Chief Executive in the local government sector, all my colleagues knew that perception was reality, even when the stats did not back that up. The best medicine for retaining your talent is actually an incredible staff culture that they tell their friends about – and one that is authentic about wellbeing and work-life balance. You want a culture where people don’t feel like they their ‘lot in life’ is to sit behind a desk and make money for a company and its Directors.
If you get that balance wrong, you will be in the fast-lane to the talent war. While that may benefit recruitment companies like Tribe, I also wear an advisory hat to Chief Executives and Boards to try to plug the unnecessary leak of talented staff before your talent drains out into the big lake of the job market. And if you do need Tribe to plug the gaps – we’re here to do just that – the best at the tech side of recruitment, bespoke not cookie-cutter in our approach to each job, and storytellers of the value of your organisation.