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Growing the industry: Retaining Staff

Victoria MacLennan. 16 June 2022, 11:35 pm
Growing the industry: Retaining Staff

The Hi Tech Awards held an alumni event this week, a day of informative panels, discussions and networking. One of the standout panels for me was "Keeping the corporate raiders at bay" focused on how to retain staff in these uniquely challenging times - in terms of talent and access to labour. 

I took a tonne of notes and have mashed those up with other reading and expert advice in this space. It was a great timely discussion.

First up - the current situation?

I won't take up too much of this on the current situation as we are all acutely aware of what's going on but here are a few points worth noting:

  • Your staff are getting constantly bombarded by recruiters and big businesses both on and offshore
  • People need to feel they are being paid fairly
  • Culture is more important than ever and needs to be right 
  • We have super low unemployment
  • There is unprecedented pressure on margin and costs

Covid has changed things in surprising ways

We also all know 2 years with the boarders closed means people are leaving in record numbers - and predictions are this will continue into 2023. Young people heading off on their first OE, others who returned are heading off again etc etc, Covid has created a new operating environment in terms of:

  • Australian companies operating in the New Zealand market at record levels, with no in-country overheads and paying Australian salaries 
  • Remote working on a global basis making it possible to stay in NZ but be part of a team headquartered anywhere
  • The talent issues we are facing here are also a global issue, the US market is particularly struggling with the "great resignation"

The scale of the global challenge includes:

  • "Australia will need 1 million people in tech jobs by 2025, meaning around 260,000 more people will need to enter the Australian tech workforce in that time" Source
  • "By 2025, it's anticipated that there will be three million new technology job vacancies in the UK, worldwide around 149 million." Source
  • "by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people" Source

Advice to employers

The Hi Tech panel all agreed it's tough right now, no matter your operating model, stage or scale. Their advice was:

  • Employers need to lift their game - benefits, personal development and remuneration
  • Consider meaningful benefits that don't cost the earth eg unlimited wellness leave, health insurance, volunteer leave, work from an international location for 60 days
  • Leadership development - coaching and mentoring for anywhere in career 
  • Embrace people working from anywhere in the world (not just in NZ) 

For SAAS companies specifically - ESOP really matters now, the recent liquidity events (like Vend and Timely) means stock/shares hold real value so use this as an attractive benefit. That said in the current market stock prices are declining so valuations are fluid and calculations complicated. 

Other tips and tricks to differentiate your company from those with deeper pockets:

  • Consider becoming a fully remote business or
  • Creating permanent remote roles (with quarterly in person days built in)
  • Could you offer a 4 day week?
  • Communicate authentically - and be really really transparent with staff
  • Create an Alumni programme keeping past employees engaged and potentially entice them back with new skills and experiences

If you are fighting for talent focus on the generation you are looking to employ, they want to engage in meaningful mahi, with purpose, be contributing to sustainable, environmental and impact goals. 

Finally - what not to do

There were great questions about toxic cultures and how to redress these, the conclusion of the room was this takes serious commitment, investment to effect systemic cultural change. Other behaviours to be wary of:

  • "Old school attitudes" eg: the need to physically see people in the office 
  • Poor leadership capability . People leave managers, they don't leave jobs. 70% of an employees experience is dependant on their manager 
  • Listen to the gossip - there is something in what you are hearing 

If you are interested in discussing this challenge with other employers and industry leaders let me know, a hui to focus on collective efforts, sharing of ideas and meaningful interventions can be arranged. Kia pai tō rā, Vic

This is one post in a series of blog posts on Growing the Industry: 


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