Date posted: 03/06/2022

New report highlights regional response to talent brain drain

Better lifestyles, a six-hour workday and job-sharing are among the drawcards that regional businesses are using to attract talented jobseekers in the face of a post-Covid brain-drain and the lure of the cities, says a new report from Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

Better lifestyles, a six-hour workday and job-sharing are among the drawcards that regional businesses are using to attract talented jobseekers in the face of a post-Covid brain-drain and the lure of the cities, says a new report from Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. 

The report, Attracting Talent to the Regions of Aotearoa New Zealand, was developed with member feedback from Whangārei to Invercargill. 

Charlotte Evett, CA ANZ’s Government Affairs and Emerging Issues Leader, said group members shared a range of ideas about how to overcome the well-known challenge of attracting and retaining the right talent in regional areas against the lure of the big cities and overseas opportunities. 

“The pandemic put a stop to skilled immigration, which worsened our national skills shortage and now we’re seeing a significant brain-drain as the pent-up demand for travel is unleashed,” Ms Evett said.

“Stats NZ data shows unemployment is at its lowest rate in over almost 15 years, and we’ve got a net migration outflow.” 

“It means competition has never been higher for top talent, and regional employers need to respond with creative solutions.”  

One regional business has introduced a six-hour workday – but still pays employees for 7.5 hours.  

The firm reports employees are now more efficient, productivity is up and they have a waiting list of prospective employees. 

“The clients have adapted really well. We told them we were doing it to attract better talent and improve our employees’ work/life balance, and they understood,” said Trudi Ballantye from Stem Rural accountants in Te Puke. 

Others said it was vital to provide career roadmaps for regional employees. 

“Start from the bottom up. From the first day they walk into the office, they know the expectations of what they’ll do as a graduate, what they’ll do as a manager and potentially what they’ll do as an owner/partner,” said Cameron Town of Silks Audit in Whanganui. 

Members called for more partnerships with schools and universities to increase knowledge of rural opportunities – and of rural life itself. 

“Some people don’t know one end of a cow from another. They think that milk comes from the corner store,” said John Schol from Malloch McClean accountants in Invercargill. 

Regular progress updates with individual staff and six-monthly pay reviews also assist in retaining good talent and preparing them for more senior roles by helping them understand the contribution they are making. 

“Make that link that what you do contributes to your organisation, to the clients and to the community,” said Mike Drummond from the Tasman District Council in Nelson.

Other ideas to attract and retain talent in the regions included offering relocation allowances, community sponsorships, consider older employees, traineeships for school leavers, paid internships and providing top-class IT and a modern work environment.

Ms Evett said the regional discussion paper would be used to increase collaboration between local organisations and develop region-specific solutions to attract talent based on their respective strengths. 

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