IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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NZ’s digital skills shortage reaches crisis point: How to attract and retain talent during tough times
Thu, 12th Aug 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

COVID-19 has pushed New Zealand's digital skills shortage to crisis point, according to research from NZTech. The organisation's digital skills survey found that between 4,000-5,000 skilled tech professionals have immigrated to the country within the last five years — but the pandemic put a stop to this, and the adverse impact has been immense. As demand for digital skills far outstretches supply, there could be as many as 10,000 open roles that companies are struggling to fill.

Due to skills shortages, 60% of survey respondents are unable to take on new work, and 20% are unable to complete digitisation projects already underway. As current employees work to keep projects on track during the global pandemic, increasing pressure, stress and wellbeing issues are rising.

The relationship between employers and employees has become more nuanced and driven by a desire for a healthy lifestyle beyond work. Additionally, the rapid rise in digital transformation has led to employees requiring greater support to remain productive outside of the office.

The Randstad 2021 Employer Brand Research study highlights what employees look for in their current or future employers. For the first time in ten years, it found that employees no longer considered money as their top priority in a job. In fact, work/life balance has emerged as number one, with brand loyalty driven by how well supported an employee feels in their role.

In a job market where talent is scarce and the future is uncertain, employees must recognise that salary and monetary benefits do not equate to an employee retention strategy. People want and expect more from their employers.

Encouraging loyalty and trust: the importance of workplace culture and branding
Encouragingly, the research found that employees are more loyal to their employer today than they were a year ago, likely due to the instability of 2020. Of those surveyed, 66% feel more loyal than 12 months prior, with those looking to change roles reducing overall.
Loyalty can be tested and, in a market under increasing pressure due to an insufficient volume of candidates with the right skills, the war on talent is heating up. Now is not the time for companies to rest on their laurels when it comes to strengthening their employer brand.

If businesses want to encourage loyalty and attract the right people, they must understand what employees are looking for and ensure their employee brand is delivering on this.
Being able to work remotely and being supported with good health practices has increased employee loyalty. During the recruitment process, employers should ask candidates what they are looking for in terms of flexibility and what they can offer to assess whether they are a good match. 
In line with increased remote working, there's also an increased shift towards conducting candidate interviews remotely. While this can ensure flexibility for hiring manager and candidate, there are drawbacks, particularly in a competitive talent market.

Some advice: remote-based interviews are fine for the initial first-round interviews. But to ensure the personal touch, scheduling second interviews in the office is recommended. It's far more engaging for both parties and gives the hiring manager a chance to show the candidate around and introduce other team members. It also provides the candidate with a stronger sense of the people and work environment.
When it comes to attracting talent, 80% of employers believe that having a strong employer brand significantly impacts their ability to hire great people. On top of this, both recruiters and candidates cite company culture as one of the most important reasons for choosing an employer. Transparency, authenticity and having a clear message helps candidates to better understand how they could fit into the organisation and builds trust from the outset.  
As New Zealand continues to bounce back from the worst of the pandemic, the businesses that last the distance will be those that invest in genuinely understanding their employees and build a brand that effectively attracts and retains talent throughout the journey to recovery.