By Hamish Price, HainesAttract CEO

2023 for many has seemed like the year that has had more jump starts than my 1987 Honda City – circa 1996. And the year like that little car, was possibly slightly better than we all gave it credit for. However, when we looked for faults, issues, and the odd concerning noise from the Honda we always found them. Albeit turning the radio up would mask the issue of the day. That’s the thing: while there were challenges with the ironically named ‘Tardis’ there were plenty of upsides – one being more space than you’d pick, secondly to fill the tank it only needed to smell petrol. And lastly, as my parents said, I had a car – and it was free, although it offered as much safety protection as a tinfoil helmet

And that’s the point. In 2023 – it’s easy to form a view on the world that’s a little dire, and yes, with reason. Our health sector is in a very tough position – short of talent; (and to anyone leading recruitment teams in the health sector, or agencies looking for solutions – we are here to help). We’ve been smashed by cyclones; we are cooling down from an overheated spend-up on the back of the pandemic, and the world is coming for our talent.

On top of that, there’s a shortage of everything, apart from economists making predictions and forecasts. However, when it comes to the talent attraction sector in the context of New Zealand, the space we (and many reading this) play in, many of these challenges are actually ours to help solve. And in my view, this is what makes this sector so vital to every organisation, and so interesting right now.

It’s taken a while, but it seems 2023 is finally finding some rhythm. But by no means a universal one. We are seeing organisations starting to make decisions, moving forward, hiring in one area, pausing in others, scraping employee value propositions that were accurate for 2022, and starting again. And although there’s a raft of challenges out there when it comes to recruitment, there are some shining lights and positive shoots that we can all tap into. So, here are our top five, reminders and observations to celebrate. Counting down, like the RTR for those old enough to remember that.

A nation of storytellers.

From Māori as an oral tradition to pass stories to generations, through to Crump’s or John Clarke’s quintessential kiwi adjectives, we tell a very good yarn.

Dan Phillips our Creative Director – always says he is yet to find an organisation that doesn’t have a story to tell, but there are plenty who let others tell it for them. Take control of your story, after all, it’s yours. TradeMe’s recent State of the Nation report shows that 32% of the workforce have no plans to change jobs this year, but if the opportunity came up, they’d take it. A story that engages and inspires may just shift the dial. If you haven’t done so yet, sort out your story. If you can’t see it, I am sure someone else can. You’ll have one, and with fresh eyes, it is always more interesting than you think.

Regions – their time to shine.

Regional mobility. It is finally happening - Kiwis are getting comfortable packing up and moving out from the larger cities to the regions like never before. And new Kiwis also. Joleah Whittle who leads our Engineering recruitment solutions team, has seen the arrival of new migrants into Dunedin, Palmerston North, Hawkes Bay, and other regions, as first-pick options. After all, to the rest of the world our big cities, well they’re just not that big.

Perhaps this is the upside of increased house prices in the main cities, or a return to a simpler way of life which has meant our six “metropolitan” cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Tauranga and Wellington, which together lost 13,750 residents as a result of internal migration in 2020. Let’s make sure that if you’re an employer that’s open to teams working from where works best for them, be it Tauranga or Timaru – make it clear, that you don’t mind where! And the salaries look attractive also. TradeMe recently reported that the highest average salary was for those living in the Wellington region ($71,825) followed by the West Coast ($69,700) of the South Island, not Auckland.

Guess who’s back? Net Migration

We are a migrant nation. We all came from somewhere, so can we please get back to celebrating this? New Stats NZ data shows an annual net migration gain of 33,200 people, which compares with a loss of 17,500 people. It was the highest net migration level since December 2020. We’re seeing it in our business, with an increase in international campaigns across a range of sectors, from engineering to tourism. And speaking of tourism, that’s where it starts.

I was reminded of this as I caught the ferry back from Kawau Island over the school holidays, where I met a couple, both engineers and on a family holiday. A “let’s check it out first” after I absolutely chewed their ears off about living here, I’m sure they will be back, or perhaps never return. But the point is they were here to “check it out” as tourists first.

January 2023 Stats NZ reported we are already back to two-thirds of what we were before the pandemic began. The more people that come back to New Zealand, the more stories they will tell, and before you know it – those one-way flights will be booked. On that note we’re also lucky enough to be working with a major airline that has some big plans to scale up, it’s exciting to see things start to return. We’re back in the race, we just need to tell a few thousand people! People who can fix roads, deliver babies, make coffee, teach children and on it goes…

We muck in

When tough times happen – it’s our response, and as a nation, we still pull each other up versus push each other down. And when we’re speaking to international talent, it’s the people as much as the place they are attracted to. So, make sure you showcase those characters in your organisation and tell their stories, who they are not just what they do.

The recent community response across New Zealand to the cyclones and flood relief showed that we still care. And as we made our way back over SH52 from Hahei in the school holidays, we saw huge efforts going in from the teams at Higgins, ensuring at all hours that the roads were working to some degree, and doing their best. And that’s the thing that team was at on the frontline, rain or shine. They don’t get up from the keyboard and make a coffee when they want. Or the group of grannies from Frimley Village who knitted 180 soft toys for the children of Wairoa, to spread a bit of joy, mucking in when no one’s watching, how refreshing. So, let’s keep that advantage of supporting each other and delivering much needed work.

Food, glorious food.

We produce food. And in the future, that’s surely an attraction factor. Now, let’s not debate the fact we produce enough to feed 40 million, and there’s our own five million first. I am simply pointing out that we produce loads of it and its good stuff the world wants. And glancing ahead into the future, my pick is that the countries that produce and have a degree of self-reliance will have an edge to attract the world’s best and brightest.

So, while inflation is trending down, yes, we still have major increases in food prices and that seems the most stubborn to shift. However, the point I am making is long term – we produce the stuff, like it or not we have pedigree as a farming nation, and as such have a fantastic food tech and AgriTech industry, and at a point in time when we’re through the cost of food issue, there’ll be someone far smarter than I (in a think tank like the bubble) working out how we can be just a little more self-sufficient.

So, from where we sit there’s enough of a jump to start 2023, and positive signs ahead as unemployment still sits low, here and in many comparable nations. As for predictions? Well, the only prediction I make is things will keep being fluid in our sector, yet the role of the talent and recruitment professionals will keep growing in value, especially as the battle for talent gets played out, not just at a company-to-company level but country versus country. And that’s our chance to shine.

And as for the Honda City, it went round the clock (with an immaculate servicing record may I add) and was purchased for a small price by a migrant family, who had just arrived in New Zealand. Circa 1999, my first car became theirs and like all good stories, it continued.