HR and Health & Safety
Retaining talent poses challenge in post-quake Canterbury
One of the greatest challenges facing Christchurch businesses is retaining the managers and executives that have been brought in or grown as a result of the rebuild, writes Leanne Crozier. 
Photo: Decipher Group directors Leanne Crozier and Saracha Every.
The city’s post-quake boom is still a unique selling point for Canterbury businesses wanting to attract highly qualified candidates to their organisation. Professionals want to be a part of the once in a lifetime opportunity that the rebuild represents – and which the post-quake economic strength provides. 
Christchurch has a lot to offer right now and in the medium to long-term. Our local economy is strong and with more than $70 billion dollars being pumped into the regeneration of the inner city, it’s creating a real buzz for talent acquisition. 
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Medium to long-term employment outlook: looking ahead to 2023 forecasts employment trends will remain above the long-run average (1.7 per cent) in the medium-term to 2019 but will start declining thereafter. 
Strong employment growth is expected in the retail trade and accommodation, business services, construction, utilities and certain manufacturing industries such as machinery, equipment and metal products. Service industries including health care, social assistance, the arts, recreation and other personal services are forecast to experience moderate growth.
The employment of highly-skilled occupations, including managers and professionals, will be strongest and is projected to account for about 58 per cent of the nation’s staffing demand to 2024.   
There’s no question many of Canterbury’s core industries have benefited from the rebuild economy, expanding their ranks to maximise new business opportunities. But the war to recruit high-calibre staff has triggered a shift from talent attraction to retention – and this will be a major challenge for Christchurch as the rebuild begins to wind down. 
Business leaders need to start thinking outside the box and find ways to continue challenging these extraordinary people so they don’t become complacent or think the grass is greener elsewhere. They need to start developing executive leadership and growth strategies to maintain a highly-skilled workforce and ensure their business will be viable in five and 10 years’ time. 
Industry research shows that three in four New Zealand professionals are open to hearing about new job opportunities. If Christchurch is to keep hold of its greatest assets, we must overcome our desire to maintain ‘business as usual’ and instead focus on the successful execution of leadership activities that will move a business into the future. 
While staff turnover is inevitable, there are certain things businesses can do to enhance their chances of holding onto top talent. 
Firstly, get buy-in. Create a team of empowered people that arrive to work with purpose. They understand the principles that drive the company and recognise the benefits of doing a great job. Share your vision and goals with your staff. Help them understand what you do and how their role contributes to achievement of the overall objectives. 
Secondly, encourage growth and provide a career path. The best executives are highly motivated people that are driven by new challenges. They need to know there is a career path in front of them and that by working hard and contributing their intellectual property, they’ll be rewarded – not just financially, but in terms of personal and professional growth. 
Support your staff by investing in training programmes to expand their knowledge, enable them to research new ideas and increase their exposure to business development opportunities within your organisation. Not only will their enhanced skillset directly benefit the day-to-day running of your business, but you’ll be surrounded by a team of thinkers who actively seek out innovative concepts and ideas. 
Pay your staff what they’re worth. This might seem obvious, but if you scrimp on salaries you’ll end up losing your most valued staff. People who are underpaid quickly become resentful. Those who are well-compensated and recognised for their efforts will invariably work harder and stay committed. 
Finally, manage workloads. We all have those diehard employees who refuse to ask for help and silently struggle under volumes of work. However, employees who are constantly overworked will eventually break mentally, or start putting in a sub-standard performance.  
Think about your company’s offering, employee value proposition (EVP) and internal culture. Sometimes biting the bullet and hiring more staff to handle increased workflow will allow your team to concentrate on doing a great job on every project. This will give them the satisfaction of meeting, or exceeding your expectations, and provide you with a better overall result. 
It is an unchanging fact that people are our most valuable asset and keeping them requires an alignment of values, motivation and reward. What is changing is the way that we find and connect with our most valuable assets, and technology is playing a major part in how professional recruiters and in-house teams achieve this. 
Businesses have a unique market opportunity in Christchurch so make the most of it. Start by defining an executive leadership strategy, develop an innovative, forward-thinking approach to recruitment and surround yourself by people that push you to do a better job, every day.  
Leanne Crozier is the director of Decipher Group, a Christchurch-based human resource and recruitment company established in 2008. It recruits directors, senior managers and executives for some of New Zealand’s top-tier businesses and recently placed several high profile candidates on governance boards in the agribusiness, manufacturing, transport and tourism industry sectors. 
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