We’re entering the danger zone.
With borders reopening, it’s easy to think our skills shortage issues are over – or at least will be reducing. But there’s another side to this story and it’s around the thousands of Kiwis who have been keen to move overseas but, thanks to Covid, have remained in the country.
Now, as the world learns to live with Covid and borders reopen, they’re getting ready to relieve those itchy feet and get moving.
It’s bad news for New Zealand and likely to deepen already critical skills shortages.
Kiwibank economists have estimated a net loss of up to 20,000 migrants this year in what could be the largest net migration outflow since 2011.
It’s a view shared by other economists and one I’ve been talking to clients about in recent months.
We’ve managed to keep these people here for nearly three years, but with the ability for New Zealand citizens to freely enter the country without needing to self-isolate, the lure of the great OE is likely to prove too much, the economists say.
The opening of borders in Australia, with its strong labour market, will also exacerbate the outflow, while continuing restrictions on arrivals from China, India and South Africa mean it might be next year before we see immigration benefits.
So what’s a company to do?
Kiwi companies are already worried about holding on to talent. It’s been an ever increasing headache for several years now.
The savvy ones are already making plans, including having open conversations with their team during performance appraisals about what the next six to 12 months looks like – for both the staff member and the company.
Knowing what your staff are looking for enables you to be on the front foot. If you have an international office you could consider redeploying a staff member there, so you don’t lose talent from the business.
There’s also the opportunity to harness remote work – and I mean really remote, as in internationally remote. Or it might mean thinking about looking for talent now, so that when a staff member leaves, you already have someone in reserve. (And yes, I’m fully aware this can be a very difficult thing to do for many small businesses.)
In particular, SMBs need to make sure that they have people who are backups to the primary incumbent, especially for critical roles. At Paragon, for example, we have an account director. But we also have a secondary person, fully trained and ready to step in whenever the account director is unavailable – be they sick or on leave – to ensure we can maintain delivery to clients.
Having a development plan and a succession plan can also smooth the way should someone leave.
And don’t be afraid to broaden your team’s job descriptions so they cross train in other areas where they may be needed. It’s not just good for your business, it’s good for your team members – take their passions in the company and harness it, training them on their areas of interest, to build on their strengths, or alternatively to manage their weaknesses and turn them into positives.
It’s all about having backup plans. We’re in the midst of the ‘Great Resignation’ and facing another emigration wave. Let’s make sure we are as ready as we can be.