Despite changes to immigration policy, many Kiwi industries are still looking to source talent from overseas to address significant skill shortages, according to a new report from global recruitment company Robert Walters.
Research for the consultancy's recent Mobilising global talent report found two-thirds of those surveyed believed tightening immigration policy would just make the situation — and the shortage — worse.
Over 60 per cent of the employers and hiring managers surveyed said their organisation was impacted by skills shortages, while a 2018 PwC survey found New Zealand's CEOs ranked "availability of key skills" as the second biggest threat to business growth, ahead of over-regulation, terrorism, changing workforce demographics and populism.
Robert Walters' New Zealand director Shay Peters says it's a problem that's not going away, and the Kiwi businesses need to "retool" their recruitment practices to make sure they can access the best candidates from overseas. Less than a third of those surveyed (just 27 per cent) reported having a strategy in place to source professionals from overseas, and only 39 per cent said their organisation facilitated international transfers.
Areas of particular shortage are technology, including demand for cyber-security professionals, development and digital specialists, and those with business intelligence and data management skills. In the professional area there are shortages in the legal, finance and procurement fields.
Major markets for candidates for jobs here are the UK and Australia, but tech skill shortages mean recruiters are also looking in the US and India, especially for employees already working for large multinational brands in these markets.
Peters recommends New Zealand enterprises looking to fill skill shortages with international candidates need to make sure potential candidates can access up-to-date information on New Zealand immigration regulations, "so nobody's wasting anybody's time". He recommends partnering with a recruitment agency with access to those markets and already networking for potential candidates.
Technology has streamlined the international recruitment process, with tools such as Skype for Business playing role in the two parties being able to see each other face to face.
"Hiring managers can get a feel for the candidate, not just around their hard skills but how they might fit within the business culture, better than just talking on the phone," Peters says. "It's not perfect but it definitely has a function, helping the recruiter to connect on a similar level they would with a local candidate, meeting for a coffee."
Peters also recommends involving the wider management team in the talent search, so candidates aren't just getting a "sales pitch" but a feel for the working environment and corporate culture.
And just selling "the Kiwi dream" isn't enough to attract top candidates to make the big move here, Peters warns.
"People want to come to New Zealand for lifestyle reasons, but that is only going to attract them so far," he says. "The alteration of immigration legislation has made people more nervous, and has slowed the process down.
"We have the value proposition of a clean, green New Zealand, but we are competing in a global market and everything needs to stack up. We are a very little fish in a big pond."
Attracting expatriate New Zealanders looking to return home is a significant portion of the solution, and can have major advantages.
"They can assimilate back into New Zealand more easily, and don't have to adapt as much when it comes to fitting back into the workforce here," Peters says.
"A lot of hiring managers here feel a degree of comfort in hiring a returning New Zealander, because they know they will be able to get into the groove a lot more quickly — they understand the working culture here. An international candidate can take a year to really get into that New Zealand way of working."
Filling a skill shortage or improving the bottom line may not be the only positives about employing an international candidate. In the Robert Walters survey, 60 per cent of respondents said a blend of domestic and international talent helped to boost workplace culture.
"In today's environment of globalisation and the world economy, people understand that diversity and fresh thinking are a great way to move ahead in their own organisations," says Peters. "It might be different ways of thinking or experience with technology, but also soft skills, which can really help New Zealand companies move forward, making sure they are up with the play on the international stage."
Once Kiwi companies have attracted top international talent here, it's not enough to just leave them to get on with the job — retention is key. Everyone's time and money has been wasted if that person decides not to stay with the company, or to return overseas.
"It's very important to not just induct the person into the workplace, but to do anything you can do to introduce them to local networks, so they feel comfortable and welcome," says Peters.
"It might be business networks or outside that, like sporting or cultural activities. That's what's going to keep them here — not just the job."