Well, I don’t think anyone with a crystal ball would have foreseen the cataclysmic changes imposed on the world since January 2020. While the ripple effect of Covid has been a trickle for some sectors, for others it has been a tsunami.
We know that the tourism and hospitality sectors have been hit particularly hard, so it is a relief to see the borders opened again and life returning to a ‘new’ normal.
The Bay of Plenty catchment offers a diverse range of employment opportunities and a wealth of businesses spanning a wide spread of sectors. Although operational aspects differ for each of them, I have no doubt that managing the human element – the people – through these times has necessarily been front-and-centre of their thinking.
Strong export and trade indicators from Bay of Plenty industries such as Kiwifruit and shipping have to an extent been a saviour over the last couple of years. But I encourage all businesses in the Bay of Plenty region not to lose sight of the one input that is under the most pressure – your people.
Looking after and retaining great teams in this environment has become more vital than ever. Practical changes in the way people work have forced us to become more flexible; For many the choice of working from home or the from office has become a new norm – the challenge for both employers and employees is in finding a good balance.
At a most basic level, I see many young people who don’t have an adequate home-office set up available – that’s a very real challenge for some.
“It is the continued hard work, innovation and ‘smart thinking’ of our businesspeople that continues to make our economy such a strong performer internationally – I congratulate you all,” – Sir John Key
And let’s not forget that for young Kiwis who may be relatively new to the workforce, being ‘seen’ at work is a great motivator as well as a critical part of their work life development. Many have missed this during Covid, so we all need to work towards bolstering the support structures within the workforce.
I see a multitude of new challenges that will test us all. Some of these challenges will take a toll on society, and negatively affect the whole economy if we’re not cognisant of them.
For example, the ‘brain drain’; There is no doubt younger people will want to head overseas now and explore the world again. The challenge is to figure out how we can best retain this talent in New Zealand, or at least make way for them to go overseas and then come back to Aotearoa New Zealand?
I have spoken recently about the slew of additional challenges which we all need to focus on. These include cyber security (a significant new challenge for many organisations, many of which struggle to know where and how to start protecting against threats) and environmental protection which has become a whole new sector in itself.
I would need far more space to address many of the important topics that consume much of my day-to-day thinking, such as supply chain issues, the effects of Covid, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, diversity in the workplace, inflation, interest rates and business confidence.
However, I take great heart from reading about the Bay of Plenty business success stories in this Yearbook – they are gold.
It is the continued hard work, innovation and ‘smart thinking’ of our businesspeople that continues to make our economy such a strong performer internationally – I congratulate you all.
If I could give one final word of advice to everyone – good mental health is vital, so make sure you build-in your own stress relief and remember the words of the late Desmond Tutu: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Don’t be overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges we face.