Since I was a teenager I would keep hearing about the brain drain, how
it wasn't good for New Zealand, how our best were going offshore. In recent times the discussion has shifted to people offshore not paying their student loans. How dare they? After we've funded them but I'm not going to enter into that discussion today.
What I did want to talk about was the macro effect of the brain drain
and the reason for that is I believe a much larger invisible cost.
It's a cost we all bare but don't realise, and that's the cost of
You see the real problem with the brain drain, is that once our best &
brightest go offshore, who is left behind? Well arguably the second
best and brightest. However these guys are now viewed as our top
performers. The top performers who the rest are competing against.
And that's the kicker. Suddenly we have a young workforce who are
benchmarking themselves against our second rate performers. And hey
that's not supposed to be an insult to anyone here in New Zealand
(that group includes me). It's that we subconsciously benchmark
ourselves against our peers and if the bar lowers, so do our
When you look at this on a macro market level, this is quite serious, in a knowledge economy we are on the back foot straight away. Our
average level of performance drops. Not surprisingly you see hints of this every year when productivity figures are released.
What we need to change is how we benchmark, we should be comparing
performance of our top stars with international best practice. How do
they weigh up? We should be investing in getting our top performers
world class experience and making sure we as workplaces strive to be a world class marketplace. Keep the focus global, rather than benchmarking locally, see what the best in the world will do. Lift
Extend this beyond people though, do that for your competition - what
are they doing offshore? What ideas are really effective? What marketing works? What is the world best practice. Find the level and
It's not a matter of getting the government to make changes, it's a
responsibility of every kiwi, to lift our horizons, benchmark
globally. If we can do that, one day the brain drain will be coming
our way, we have everything else, why not the best talent.