The most talked about subject at recent board meetings has been the skills shortage that has really started to bite in New Zealand.  Many sectors have been affected by shifting government policy regarding immigration but members are now finding it is inching beyond the hospitality, agriculture and health sectors and into most other skilled professions.

I’ve listened to many heartbreaking stories of families separated because of visa delays or refusals, actions that have left husbands and wives, parents and children, partners and friends stuck and alone on different sides of the world. 

Many are now considering whether the promised work and career in New Zealand is worth the pain of separation and, as other countries begin to ease their border controls, the very people we need to retain are preparing to head elsewhere so they can be reunited with their loved ones and obtain well-paid, rewarding employment.

Policy changes at government level are proving challenging to say the least and at our regular board meetings we have discussed what businesses might do to influence or at least highlight the need for action at government level. Then the talk turns to what we can do as business owners to retain the skilled staff we have got – and how can we help them negotiate the maze of red tape that now envelops both the business and our employees?

With those conversations in mind, here are six suggestions that might prove to be a starting point if you are struggling with the skills shortage.

Pay.  In the last month hospitality workers have said that there isn’t a skills shortage in their sector, there is a pay shortage. Minimum wage jobs do not meet living costs for many workers who face sky rocketing rents, accommodation shortages and rising prices. It may be worth running a skills audit within your business so you can determine if you have a skills shortage – or a pay shortage. Undertake a competitor analysis, compare sector pay rates and look at the cost of living in your region. Offering competitive pay may be the first step to retaining your workers – or attracting new ones.

Purpose. When was the last time you considered your business purpose? Today’s employees look for employers with whom their values align and a business purpose that resonates with their beliefs. 

Place. What’s it like to work at your place? Is there a healthy workplace culture? What do you do to foster an environment where people want to come to work? Take a long look and see if it matches employee expectations.

Potential. Is there room for growth? Will you develop your employees’ potential and encourage their development? Is there a pathway to learning or will their skills stagnate? What can you do to ‘home-grow-your-own’ employees as a way to combat the shortage?

Participation. Do you offer opportunities for participation and collaboration or are you stuck in the ‘command and control’ systems of the past? Employees – particularly the new generation – are looking to be involved in the business, contribute ideas and innovate.

Policy. How good are your employment policies? And, if you have employees separated from their families because of COVID19 restrictions are you prepared to go into bat for them at government level?

There’s no doubt we are in difficult times and we are likely to face more difficulties in the next couple of years so discussing the issues, working on innovative solutions, developing strategies and strengthening the small business owner’s voice at government level are some of the steps we need to take if we are going to knock the skills shortage for six.

Business InsightsSix steps to beat the skills shortage