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New Zealand job market bolstered by booming tech industry

By Catherine Knowles, Tue 19 Jan 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The job market in New Zealand is becoming increasingly fluid, with demand on the rise and the workforce open to new opportunities.

This has been driven, in part, by the fact that tech businesses are booming in New Zealand’s major cities and the IT industry has regained momentum.

The latest Hudson Report: Forward Focus 2016, finds New Zealand employers’ intent to hire has reached a six-year high, with 92.5% planning to increase or maintain headcount in the first half of the year.

Survey results also indicate that 63% of the New Zealand workforce will be open to new opportunities in 2016.

Roman Rogers, Hudson New Zealand executive general manager, says the six-year peak is bolstered by a surge of growth across industries that have been somewhat muted in the past. 

“What we’re seeing is other sectors starting to pull their weight including manufacturing, transport, tourism, financial services and, chiefly, IT has regained momentum,” Rogers says.

Employers in the IT industry dominate the latest figures, with a net 40.7% looking to increase or maintain permanent headcount across all three of the main metropolitan centres; Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with tech businesses growing in the Auckland and Christchurch hubs, and government projects behind the growth in Wellington, the report shows. 

“Organisations are looking to bring greater efficiencies to what they do, and if they’re not, then their customers are demanding it,” he says.

“There is a lack of tolerance for organisations that are antiquated with their technology.

“We are seeing a real groundswell to keep pace with that demand, with organisations recognising the need to invest in IT in order to stay relevant,” he says. 

Organisational growth has been cited by employers as the number one reason to add to headcount (52%), followed by increased workload (43%).

“Growth is a good problem to have, it reflects a positive economy. While it makes talent attraction harder, it also means more customers and revenue for your business.

“The key is to plan for this uptick in economic and hiring activity so you aren’t caught short,” says Rogers.

The war for talent: The ceasefire is over

With hiring sentiment indicating a return of the ‘war for talent’ employers must be proactive with attraction, retention and engagement strategies, he says.

An overwhelming 85% of professionals surveyed would move industries for the right role and 46% would move countries.

“New Zealand’s workforce is particularly inquisitive. And there is a pent up appetite for change that perhaps hasn’t been satisfied in the last three to four years due to things like organisations maintaining a focus on cost, and lower consumer confidence levels,” Rogers says.

The most common drive for change amongst professionals is the feeling of boredom and the need for a new challenge, with 26% of respondents saying they would move jobs as a result.

“This stems from a fundamental engagement issue that New Zealand has battled with for some time.

“When we look at what drives boredom, there are typically three things that employees want in their jobs: to feel as though they’re contributing, to feel that their role is meaningful, and to feel that they’re successful.

“If these elements are lacking then employees will start to look elsewhere,” says Rogers. 

The flight risk: Australia calls 

Australia continues to top the list of places Kiwis would relocate to at 47%, but, as net migration figures show, there is also a large contingent of Kiwis wanting to return home.

“The reality of moving is that it is not that easy. People need to do their due diligence.

“Lower salaries and the cost of housing is challenging for people wanting to move back to New Zealand,” Rogers says.

Furthermore, although many job seekers look to Australia for more senior and more specialised roles, with unemployment both there and in New Zealand at 6%, New Zealanders will find strong competition from the local market.

The preference to relocate overseas is heavily weighted in Generations X (41%) and Y (59%), with Baby Boomers (38%) more likely to want to stay put.

“It is characteristic of peoples’ life stages, although we are beginning to see that desire to head overseas delayed until people hit their late 20s and early 30s.

“Couples that have gained qualifications and sector experience are deciding to do their OEs together having held off in recent years,” says Rogers.

The push and pull factors: Should I stay or should I go?

Employees looking to jump ship are most likely to do so for the right salary (57%), followed closely by work life balance (51%).

“There is an expectation that employers will open their wallets in 2016. In the past few years, employees have anticipated increased remuneration, but those expectations haven’t been met. 

“There is a sense this is changing, and if an organisation is willing to pay above market value for a role, that could be quite compelling, especially among the younger workforce,” says Rogers. 

Additionally, cost-conscious employers have in recent years avoided increasing headcount, resulting in current staff being stretched to the point of looking for new work.

“We’ve found that employees are working incrementally more each year to cover the talent shortfall, but the good news is that a significant number of organisations are investing in new people to alleviate that pressure,” he says.

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