Avoiding talent wobbles as the borders reopen

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Finally, New Zealand’s borders are wedging open and with it, we breathe a collective sigh of relief.

While it suggests things might be getting back to a sense of normal, Covid-19 has complicated life to such an extent that it’s going to take a long time to untangle.

I am also conscious that for many small businesses, the reopening will exacerbate another headache.

Talent shortages and record levels of inflation have already been creating havoc for businesses trying to retain and attract the best employees. An anticipated ‘brain drain’ will likely amplify this challenge.

In fact, figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimate between 50,000-125,000 New Zealanders may leave on overseas experiences in the next year.

So what can, and should, business leaders do?

There’s a lot we can’t control, so we must focus on what we can. As business owners and leaders, it’s our responsibility to understand the needs and wants of our employees to nurture and foster the talent within our business.

This, in turn, will promote a positive workplace culture and attract a higher calibre of talent.

A focus on employee value proposition (EVP) and wellbeing is not ‘fluff’

Workplace policies prioritising the wellbeing of their employees are not just the domain of big corporates.

This is something I think about in recognising the challenges of regionally-based businesses who are already competing for talent attracted to deeper pockets in bigger New Zealand cities.

Of course, for those working in the Bay of Plenty’s rapidly growing construction industry, working from home isn’t practical. But there are plenty of actions you can take to build value for your employees by understanding the culture you have, and the culture you would like to foster.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Where possible, let your employees guide you in what they seek in their working hours and location. A willingness to bring flexibility and personalisation to these conditions – as it makes sense – will help your best team members stick around.
  • Prioritise your ability to be an equitable and inclusive workplace. A lot of potential talent can be locked out if they don’t feel they can, or will, be supported.
  • Listen and lead. The mental and physical wellbeing of your employees should be at the heart of the way you operate, so your team not only knows you care, but they feel supported. It can be as simple as safeguarding ‘offline’ times, to recharge through playing sport or mindfulness exercises. Or bringing teams together to connect and get to know each other to build a deeper trust across the business.

Technology is not putting people out of work

Let’s be clear – people and technology work hand-in-hand, and actually, people seek workplaces that are using technology in smart ways to make their business more productive – and hopefully more enjoyable.

Research from Xero suggests more than a quarter of small business owners are now using technology to increase their productivity.

You can attract and retain talent through the decisions you make to invest in technology in your business, positioning you as an ambitious and forward-thinking employer with the resilience to weather the conditions as they come.

In a trend the world over, people are now wanting different things from their workplaces and their lives.

Covid-19 has brought focus to new priorities for many, and for up-and-coming businesses in the Bay of Plenty, therein lies another silver lining: plenty of people are swapping big cities for places where they can have more time for a balanced life.

So as the borders open and the sand shifts again, you can play to this strength to ensure you build and retain a team where your employees flourish and your business thrives.

Related: It’s time to throw digital tools, not people, at our productivity problem

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Craig Hudson
Craig Hudson
Xero Managing Director for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

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