New research shows employment, specifically retaining and recruiting skilled staff, is the number one concern of business owners in the Bay of Plenty.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce recently undertook an analysis with market research company Key Research to discover the issues facing the organisation's members.
When asked to rank their top three concerns, respondents indicated their number one, at 35 per cent, was recruiting and retaining staff.
Of these respondents, 71 per cent said the inability to find highly skilled staff was their biggest issue. The costs of doing business, 27 per cent, and dealing with the impacts of Covid-19, 23 per cent, rounded out the top three concerns.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said businesses reliant on foreign workers were struggling to find good staff and Government regulation had incrementally added to the rising cost of compliance.
"Businesses want to employ more staff, so let's not make it hard for them as we recover from Covid-19."
Bernadette Ryan-Hopkins, founder of Ryan + Alexander recruitment agency, said businesses needed to focus on retaining their key staff by taking a considered approach to health and wellbeing.
"Retaining employees is about being good to work for. When people talk about what is important to them, flexibility is the number one after salary. In a Covid-19 world businesses have had this forced upon them for good.
"They have had to find ways to offer staff flexibility – whether in hours or working location – and show that they're committed to supporting the team," Ryan-Hopkins said.
Scott Campbell, director of Campbell Squared consultancy, said providing certainty to his staff was critical for morale, and he made the decision to keep everyone on 100 per cent salary during the tough times.
He said that being honest about the state of his business was important and as such was highly transparent with his team.
"I exposed far more of my financials than my accountant would want me to, but I felt the team needed to be aware of what was going on.
When it comes to recruitment for the right people, Ryan-Hopkins said local businesses shouldn't be afraid to headhunt out of the major cities to try to bring in the talent they needed.
"After the second lockdown, we had a huge number of candidates looking to move here from Auckland as they saw us as a key city, but far enough removed to be unaffected by the potential of another lockdown.
"We also have this expat pool returning and businesses need to be looking at ways that we can tap into that. There are some fabulous people with incredible global experience and we need to be finding those people."
However, recruiting or retaining top talent comes at a price. Of the respondents who indicated their concerns were rising business costs, 40 per cent said high staff costs were their main challenge.
Michelle Sinclair, senior tax and development manager at Bakertilly Staples Rodway, said while a business must be prepared to pay what someone was worth, it was not the only aspect of a role that employees were attracted to.
"One of the things I love about my role is the growth opportunities that come with it. I'm not put into a box for my particular skillset. If they see capability as important and embrace it, they allow me to give it a go and that is so important to highly skilled individuals."
Sinclair added that planning was the key to mitigate the incoming tide of rising costs – including staff salaries – and businesses that were agile could adapt.
"Analyse where you are at, look at your financial structure and don't plan to 'set and forget'," Sinclair said.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion with Ryan-Hopkins, Sinclair and Campbell around the findings of the Key Research insights, which included employment, infrastructure, financial planning and the issues facing the CBD.