New Zealand businesses will struggle to grow to their full potential if highly skilled candidates are not actively recruited back into the New Zealand market says Robert Walters New Zealand country manager Shay Peters.

Peters, who heads leading recruitment company Robert Walters in New Zealand, explained that the findings of the business's annual Salary Survey coupled with the possible tightening of immigration laws in New Zealand has the potential to have a significant impact on growth in industries especially those in the IT sector.

"Employees are still very much in the driver's seat with more than 80 per cent feeling confident of plentiful job opportunities this year driven by a thriving economy and large Government project roll-outs."

"The feedback from employers however, not only from the survey but also from our day-to-day engagement , is that there is an increasing lack of highly skilled candidates."

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"This coupled with the Government indicating a tightening of the immigration policy poses a real concern for businesses."

He believes Kiwi companies are going to have to really tailor their pitch to entice expats back here.

There needs to be more focus on where there are skills shortages and linking these into training requirements.

They'll have to upsell the lifestyle balance that New Zealand offers and be prepared to offer salaries in line with those in the UK, US and Asia.

He believes that salaries will increase for many professionals, leaving some in a powerful position to negotiate with the employers.

"In most professions, salaries went up in 2017, and we expect to see increases in 2018. Those professionals with skills in high demand will receive substantial increases."

Shortages across all sectorsThe Employer's and Manufacturer's Association chief executive Kim Campbell says EMA members are also concerned about the shortages.

"Our most recent EMA Employers Survey showed that 61 per cent of employers were finding it difficult or very difficult to recruit, and 72 per cent were finding it difficult or very difficult to recruit for skilled positions. The sectors our members highlighted in particular were Construction, Transport, Engineering, Health, ICT, Tourism and Trades."

He says that one of the key things expats are looking for is work and lifestyle balance, and the quality of life in New Zealand is key to this.

"The salary/benefits package also has to be appealing. The other consideration, is the globalisation effect of working for international companies where you can work in other territories and also return to New Zealand (working for the same company, ie Fonterra). In the future, how we attract Kiwis home will be become more pronounced — as other workforce markets also experience skills shortages."

He believes in the short-term, immigration is key to addressing our skills shortage.

"Our members need access to staff who are trained, have the right skills and are ready to work. In the longer term, we need to grow our own. This comes down to training. We need to look at training as life-long learning. We are well geared to investing in 18 — 24 year olds, however what we also need to address is how we enable training, learning new skills for someone who is mid-career or in the latter part of their working life. There needs to be more focus on where there are skills shortages and linking these into training requirements. We also need better links between business and the education system. A prime example is the impact of technology on future jobs. Government needs to work with employers and education providers to invest more in the types of education and training that will be most useful to people in an increasingly automated world — no easy task, but one we must address."

Though he says salaries may rise for some types of roles where there is effectively a global pay scale (in certain IT roles, medical or at CEO level) he believes others will see much more modest increases.