New Zealand's thriving economy has created a "unique chance" for New Zealand businesses to capture key international talent, says Pete Macauley, Auckland-based regional director at Michael Page recruitment agency.
He says with Australian business confidence down and its lull in investment on the job front, New Zealand companies are exceptionally well positioned to attract highly skilled overseas workers, especially in management positions.
"In New Zealand, our business confidence is at a 10-year high, there is a lot of investment taking place, job numbers are growing. We are a really attractive offering for international candidates."
He says many Kiwi expats returning Downunder traditionally have secured a role in Sydney before returning to New Zealand. "We are in a position where we are more attractive to expats returning home than Australia."
Outside of the Kiwi expats, who tend to return to New Zealand after their overseas working visas run out or to start a family, Macauley's agency is also seeing a lot of international expats who are looking Downunder for work opportunities.
"Normally they look at Australia first but they are diverting Australia and are coming straight to New Zealand because we have such a great story to tell around our economy.
"I say take the opportunity now because it won't be around forever." The Australian economy will bounce back, he says, pointing out there are already pockets of growth in certain disciplines.
So it is important that New Zealand employers capitalise on the country's strong economic position to fill existing vacancies and to expand their businesses with skilled overseas workers.
We are in a talent shortage. If you
are focusing solely on local talent and
organisations are focusing on retaining
their best talent, are you going to get the
best person in the market for your job?
But still, Macauley sees a reluctance by New Zealand firms to look outside the New Zealand talent pool to fill positions. "As business conditions strengthen, so, too, does the demand for talent. New Zealand employers are increasingly reporting that talent shortages are affecting business results, and this is expected to intensify as the economy continues to improve."
As a result of the stronger economy businesses have started to invest within their organisations, creating new roles. But many don't have the internal talent to fill those roles.
"Many businesses have struggled to invest in succession planning over the last four or five years, given limited opportunity for investment, they have to go externally to the market to source that talent."
He has also noticed existing workers are starting to take a lot more notice of the roles outside their workplace. "There is a lot more confidence from candidates, from employees to start their job search. They can see opportunities for progressions outside their current place of work."
He asks why, if talent is in such short supply in New Zealand, are so many local employers opposed to considering international workers?
"My consultants and I are regularly directed to limit shortlists to local, home-grown talent, because it is assumed that these candidates have a better understanding of the market or an established network of existing relationships.
"In many instances, local candidates are considered more favourably than international candidates on a shortlist, even if the international candidate possesses the stronger skills and experience for the job."
He suggests, to remain competitive at a global level, New Zealand employers need to complement local skills within their business with international skills and talent available to the market. More local employers need to demonstrate an open mind to the rich talent migrating here.
"A lot of organisations think it is too hard to employ someone offshore."
Offshore talent can offer fresh perspectives and value add, says Macauley.
Are overseas applicants going to be looking for a relocation package? Is there a potential that they are going to accept another offer and they're not going to turn up? Is there a level of commitment, potential visa barriers or sponsorship?
"Another common theme we get from our clients is 'we're looking for talent with existing knowledge relationships and a track record within the New Zealand marketplace'.
"If an employee or a candidate has performed offshore, whether it be in Europe or UK or EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and they have demonstrated they can perform in new sectors, new divisions, new geographies, why couldn't they perform here in New Zealand?"
Also offshore talent can provide a fresh way of thinking and provide a lot of value add.
"It is not difficult hiring people onshore. There is that whole flight risk, that they might come and work for 12 months and we will lose them again, so it is the role of the consultant or business to identify that commitment is there all the way through the interview process ... to mitigate the risk of somebody joining your organisation, sitting in the role for 12 to 18 months and then leaving to go home offshore.
"We are in a talent shortage. If you are focusing solely on local talent and organisations are focusing on retaining their best talent, are you going to get the best person in the market for your job? It is unlikely you will, when you are competing with existing employers.
"It is really about maximising the migration, incoming talent from offshore to ensure we have the best people in these new jobs that have been created to take our businesses forward, to take our market forward and take our economy forward."
He has found the majority of foreign workers his company places in these roles have committed to this country.
"They have their visa or potentially have residency or have applied for permanent residency. They have been to New Zealand before either through business or for two or three months of their OE and have decided it is a fantastic place to live.
"They have seen the economy is in a strong position and is providing career opportunities for their peers and their families and potentially there is opportunity for them.
"If more New Zealand employers were open to considering international candidates today, their companies, and the broader New Zealand economy, will certainly benefit from that decision tomorrow."