It used to be that once you had an employee, you had them for life - but that's definitely not the case now and especially in Mid-Market firms.

They're finding it takes more than a decent pay packet and stable job to keep staff happy; now they must appeal to the hearts and minds of their staff for full workplace engagement and to retain their best talent.

Despite accounting for only 6.6 per cent of the country's firms, the Mid-Market (those companies that turn over between $2m-50m annually) is a huge employer, accounting for 33.2 per cent of employment in New Zealand. That figure is set to rise even further, with the 2014 GE Capital NZ Mid-Market Report showing that Mid-Market firms expect staffing levels to grow by an average of 1.3 per cent. That could add as many as 9,900 jobs across all segments this year,

"I'm hearing that workers no longer envision static, long-term employment , but hope for career opportunities that respect their personal goals, including breaks for travel or education," reported Fonterra's General Manager of Talent Kirsty Thomas at a recent GE Capital Building Better Businesses Summit in Auckland.


She said that top calibre employees want more from their employer than just a job. In order to feel more engaged in their work, they want more ownership and input around their responsibilities, something that Mid-Market firms could do more of.

"My experience with New Zealand companies is they haven't fully explored the idea of partnering with their people," Thomas adds. "Their approach to talent is that employees will be pleased simply to work for a big name company and they'll want to take on a career for 20 years. Not everyone wants that - and the most entrepreneurial people are unlikely to want that."

Fonterra may not be Mid-Market level but, as one of New Zealand's biggest employers, with more than 16,000 staff, they have experience and best practice that many Mid-Market firms could learn from.

The GE Capital NZ Mid-Market report also found that staff retention is something 56 per cent of Mid-Market firms are especially focused on in 2014. Not only can they do without the major expense that comes with finding and training new staff, they believe good talent will help drive and grow their business this year.

As firms grow and employ more people, employees learn from each other and share ideas. The better the talent or skill level of staff, the better human capital or corporate currency, resulting in a more efficient and productive company.

As well as retaining the best talent, it's about ensuring that talent is engaged in what their company is trying to achieve, says Thomas - highly engaged employees generate much more value for a business than a person not enthusiastic or disengaged.

The GE Capital NZ Mid-Market report discovered that Mid-Market businesses think a company culture that nurtures and develops talent will help them retain skilled people. Many say they can offer their employees the opportunity to work in a business that sets the standard for their particular industry through innovation and fresh thinking.

But it will take more than that to get exceptional employees to stick around long term, especially in the case of millennials who have very different expectations of their careers to previous generations. They expect to quickly progress through the ranks and aren't afraid to job hop to get to where they want to be.


There are a few simple moves to get employees more engaged, says Thomas. Think hard about the responsibilities you give your best people - is it meaningful work that has a significant impact on your business, so they feel like what they do matters? Do you make your staff feel valued and respected for what they do for your company and do you enable them to learn and progress?

She says Mid-Market companies have the ability to offer their people a lot of varied opportunities to meet their psychological needs, even if they don't have thousands of roles or offices in multiple countries.

Align them with an effective leader good at managing and respecting people, Thomas suggests. Allow them to work alongside people who have worked overseas and have world-class experience to share. Give them a job that allows them to experience another facet of the business that they're interested in, such as marketing or sales. Grant them leave for more study or an OE. Expose them to technology or other new or cutting edge experiences.

"The key here is to understand what drives, motivates and engages people - and to figure out ways to provide or partner with them on it. It can be helpful to look around at various businesses and groups to see what makes people happy at work," Thomas advises.