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Are you ready for the great residency reshuffle?

NZ employers are bracing for another front in the war for talent.

We recently spoke to Eliana El-Khouri, International and Domestic candidate consultant at HainesAttract, and Hamish Price, CEO of HainesAttract, to discuss what's happening in the job market and how employers can be prepared for "the great residency reshuffle".

There's plenty being said about the impact of our borders opening, the potential flight risk as kiwis head off to explore new shores, and whether migrants will flood back in. On the other hand, there has been something equally impactful happening right here in New Zealand.

In December 2021, the news arrived that migrants in New Zealand had patiently been waiting for, the new residency visa was announced which was a huge relief for these people. Even better, it was promised to be a priority and the applications were to be fast-tracked and processed within the year. “If the news came out any later, we would've seen a lot of frustrated migrants giving up their dream life in New Zealand and leaving the country with a feeling of defeat,” says Eliana. 

Previously, the residency visa category had been closed for almost two years as a result of the pandemic, which at the time, created a lot of fear and insecurity as migrants no longer had a pathway to residency in New Zealand. During this period, migrants were stagnant, and there was little movement and risk-taking in both their careers and lifestyles. “These people may have been unhappy in their jobs, but they stuck around because they couldn’t afford to leave as they solely relied on their employers for an eligible visa” says Eliana. 

“While the new residency visa is a great retention tool to keep skilled migrants in New Zealand, it may have the potential reverse effects for New Zealand organisations,” says Price. Once migrants gain residency, they are no longer dependent on their current employer and instead have more freedom, opportunities, and the ability to take risks. Often, Eliana has spoken with candidates and they have said they would be interested in changing roles after they get their residency as they want to wait until they have a sense of security. With more opportunities and freedom, comes the “great residency reshuffle.” We can expect to see many people changing their priorities and jobs that they were previously too risk-averse to change.

Three key factors that are enticing people to switch up their current way of life:

Plus, what you can do as an employer to help retain your skilled people.

1. Education

“We expect to see some of these people wanting to advance their studies and career by furthering their education in New Zealand,” says Eliana. International student fees are far greater than those studying as a resident. Once our skilled migrants have obtained their residency there is no better time to study in New Zealand. 

What does this mean for you as an employer? 

Employers should be understanding throughout this time and invest in their current employees. It's essential they're encouraging or financially supporting employees to further education in their chosen field. Offering part-time or flexible hours to work around employees' timetables is key to retention.

2. Travelling

International travel 

During the pandemic, international people living in New Zealand wouldn’t have been able to see their families living in different countries for extended periods of time. With their New Zealand residency and the ability to move around, employers can expect these people to visit family and friends from back home. 

Domestic travel 

With extended lockdowns, migrants may have not had the opportunity to explore New Zealand. Employers can expect people to move around and explore different areas and even find a place or city that they find more desirable for their lifestyle. 

What does this mean for you as an employer? 

Employers should consider offering the ability to take extended time off, or the ability to work across different time zones and/or from their chosen destination. For employers, there is a lot of value in people going overseas and coming back having advanced their knowledge. “Allow your staff to take time off rather than resigning. Organisations shouldn’t have the mindset that they can easily replace their people - they all have a unique skill set that adds value to your organisation,” says Price.

3. Change of employers

In securing residency, migrants no longer rely on their jobs to obtain an eligible visa. If they no longer find their roles to be fulfilling, they now have the flexibility to move positions if they're unhappy. Larger employers may also drive these people to the larger cities. On their previous visa’s, migrants would gain points by living and working outside of the city centres. However, these rules have now changed and people will no longer get demerit points by settling in the large cities. 

What does this mean for you as an employer? 

As an organisation, you need to ensure that you are a desirable employer to work for. Again, investing in your employees is essential to retain skilled staff. If people are satisfied in their jobs they may not be enticed to look for alternative work at different companies or in other cities. 

If you find your people are shuffling around, moving to alternative cities and companies, you need to ensure you are in a place to attract new talent to fill these roles. Your brand and story needs to be visible, out in the market and appealing to this particular audience. 

Where to next?

The residency reshuffle is happening, and companies need to position themselves accordingly in the market. Price says the changes coming are inevitable and the focus needs to be on how you can support, invest, attract, and retain your employees. "Establishing your brand and creating a strong recruitment story in the market will help to attract those migrants that are looking to move. If your organisation is seen to be the most desirable and caters for these migrants’ needs, you will put yourself in a better position compared to competitors," he says.

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