New Zealand's timezone - combined with a well-educated workforce - offers a great opportunity in the digital age, says visiting recruitment expert Andrew Banks.

Banks, founder of ASX-listed human resources firm Talent2, was in Auckland yesterday to speak at the Thrive International business conference.

In Australia, a group of radiologists undertook nightshift interpretation work for the United States, Banks, 59, said.

"There's an example of not just moving work to people but moving work to timezones, to make a lifestyle for individuals," he said. "That's a huge example of how the digital age makes that possible."


New Zealand was in the timezone of Asia - the fastest-growing region in the world.

"There's lots of smart businesses in New Zealand that already serve customers all over the world."

Everyone assumed China could not be beaten for cost for manufacturing and services, but Banks said that was changing.

"Obviously we can't make kettles or fly-swats in New Zealand or Australia very efficiently but there are lots of things that we can eke out of this new world."

Firms could service clients anywhere, he said.

"That then means organisations have to change the business model - it can't just be 'I hire 1000 people, they all sit in their silos and we produce pot plants'."

New Zealand had the fourth-highest participation rate in a workforce, Banks said. "It seems to me that if you're going to get productivity up you don't need to have more New Zealanders working harder.

"Companies should get out of anything that isn't core business, they've got to stick to their core business."

Power was shifting to the employee, Banks said.

"Obviously if you're uneducated, you're 17 and you're a Mexican strawberry picker in southern California you don't have a lot of power so therefore education is the key," he said.

"It's kind of a wake-up call and I think with ... forward thinking and good leadership New Zealand has an amazing opportunity with its position to say we will no longer be defined by our geographical barriers and our basic assets."

The number of permanent jobs would continue to shrink and the workforce would move more to a combination of permanent, part time, temporary and contract roles, Banks said.

"I think particularly for educated white-collar workers there's a whole bunch of change coming.

"The good news is we're free, we're no longer slaves to the capitalist system because the balance of power is shifting ... the bad news is we have to be far better than we have been on saying how do I maximise my return on investment for the next 35 years.

"And yes, New Zealand has to adapt; if it doesn't then it will compete less favourably for jobs and for work and the consequence will be social unrest."