Employers have been put on notice that finding the people they need is about to get a lot tougher as the economy builds up speed. The heads-up comes from Paul Robinson, New Zealand director of recruitment firm Randstad.
Two years ago he was advising companies to retain their best talent, but it seems too many firms have let good staff go or have not treated them well enough to stay.
"We have seen a number of organisations that have not looked after their people as well as they could have," he says. "Now there is a real danger that if you haven't looked after your staff, and developed them through the tough times, they may be more open to making a shift to a competitor.
"That retention side of the business - good quality training, career development, making people feel valued - is critical. Some companies might find themselves reaching out to former staff to attract them back, but it is a shame it has to be that way."
The latest Randstad World of Work survey shows that 61 per cent of companies that responded are concerned about the number of high-potential employees in their organisation - there's not enough of them.
Businesses are also anxious about gaps in other areas of their workforce, with 64 per cent concerned about the low number of talented middle managers, and a similar number worried about the number of potential executive successors.
"With the economy and business conditions starting to stabilise, employers hoping to grow or innovate in 2014 need to address these concerns immediately if they want to keep pace," Robinson says.
"What I think we'll see as the European economy starts to increase are more people going on their OE. There is a higher risk a lot of young people will leave New Zealand so we need to keep an eye on what the global economy is doing. As the economy increases pace, especially across Asia-Pacific, we are all going to be targeting that talent pool."
Paul says that while the country's universities are producing "great talent", training and available courses have not kept pace with the skills required by some employers.
"As innovation continues to change, we need to ensure that the education sector creates courses to take advantage of those changes."
The survey shows that 48 per cent of Kiwi businesses remain wary of the ability of the education system to produce top-level talent. Robinson says this will create an even more competitive marketplace for top talent.
"What's been highlighted for us is that with the economy on the upswing there is a greater need for increased productivity in organisations, there's no doubt some firms have gone backwards in terms of their head count."
Robinson says organisations need to match their long-term strategies to their more immediate hiring plans.
"It's vital businesses look to their longer-term plans and ensure their HR and hiring strategies reflect these needs," he says. "Training and development strategies are of course important, as is attracting employees with the skills, expertise and attitude to help achieve long-term workforce needs.
"It's important these talent strategy game-changers are reflected in your overall business plans and that HR has a seat at the boardroom table.
"Otherwise it's unlikely you'll have the right people and the right teams you need in five years time."
It's not all bad news though.
It appears many businesses have developed programmes to help cover gaps in the leadership pipeline and are now laying the platform for innovation.
Almost half of local employers, 48 per cent, have developed talent management programmes to identify high-potential employees; 45 per cent are fast-tracking future leaders, and 39 per cent have structured their pay levels to attract high-potential talent.
However, when it comes to partnering with universities or external agencies to attract high-potential graduates, New Zealand firms lag behind most of their Asia-Pacific competitors.
"To meet transforming talent requirements, New Zealand employers need to foster stronger relationships with educational institutions and recruitment specialists who are gatekeepers to the best local and international talent," Robinson says.
"To remain competitive, and ensure valuable talent isn't drawn into international markets, New Zealand business leaders need to follow this lead."