Feature article

Creative recruitment

In a tight talent market, employers are getting creative with added incentives for job hunters.

For companies recruiting in the coming months, you’re very aware that this is going to be a tough market to find good people. The pool you’ll be recruiting from will be smaller.

According to our recent Job Intentions Report, more respondents expect to hire all talent from NZ in 2021 (73%) with drops in overseas expectations due to current immigration rules. And 10% of respondents expected to struggle to find talent in NZ as they were unable to hire from overseas.

Talented workers have choices like never before and they’re going to be weighing up all kinds of benefits before they make their move.

Trade Me Jobs’ Sales Director, Matt Tolich says: “It really is the perfect storm, and job hunters are well and truly in the driver's seat.”

Due to the demand and supply situation, employers are pushing up salaries, the average pay increased by 3% in Q2, the largest increase in over 10 years. But it’s not just money that’s going to lead someone to change their job, there are lots of intangibles which will galvanise someone with skills and options to decide it’s time for a change.

All the things job hunters want

Sense Partners’ economist, Shamubeel Eaqub says: “When there’s a tight market, there’s lots of choice for people so they’re looking to tick off everything. You can’t just do one thing well.”.

Job hunters are looking for both monetary and non-monetary rewards, says the economist. Meanwhile employers will have to make the most of local resources with no “safety valve” of migrant workers coming in.

As well as casting a net wide to the external talent pool, employers should be looking within their own firms for talent who can step up, suggests Shamubeel.

It could be someone who’s working part time at the moment and could move to full time, he says. Of course, you’ll still have to do a bit of work and make this step up appeal to them.

“It’s about rightsizing the job and the work. You might have the talent in the firm but you’re not using it. A lot of jobs are better done as a job share, you do have to be quite flexible about what you want to achieve,” says the economist.

In this competitive market you need to employ better people and to have better tools, he says, so employers need to do whatever it takes to attract the best people.

We spoke to a bunch of Kiwis from different industries around the country to see what creative recruitment looks like for them.

What the hospitality industry is doing to attract new talent

Hospitality operators are arguably some of the most affected by the lack of international workers coming into the country.

Looking at job ads on Trade Me, one Wellington restaurant is offering a $2,000 signing bonus to a full time barista, something which is relatively new to the industry.

This has been noticed by leading hospitality group, Kāpura, based in Wellington with 40 brands around the country including POP, Coene’s and Foxglove.

The group’s Human Resources Operations Manager, Tamee Waters, says she’s heard of $20,000 for a Head Chef.

While she’s mulling whether it might be something the company looks at, she notes, “We’re one of the larger organisations. If we were to start offering signing bonuses it would have a big impact on the Wellington market. We want a positive experience for everyone that works in hospo. We’re all about sharing the love.

“The HR manager has been very active in the last month looking at benefits and attraction strategies in light of the tight hospo talent pool.

Tamee says it’s hard to figure out what various perks mean to people.

The hospo employer, which has a low staff turnover rate of 6% at the moment, is offering a number of benefits including giving a paid day for staff to go and work with a charity.

Wellness is where the hospo company is making a lot of effort, says Tamee. It’s about people feeling supported in the role. It has a deal with Jetts Gym where the sign up fee is removed for staff and there are also free reiki sessions.

Kāpura is also paying attention to retention and long service and has a referral scheme. As a staff member, you can earn anything from $150 for a casual referral to $1000 for a permanent staff member, says Tamee.

The hospitality firm is not forgetting the basics or the pain points that staff feel. Giving staff a roster two weeks in advance or allowing them to have two days off consecutively, can make a big difference to them. 

“We’re open to anything at the moment,” says Tamee. Giving a schedule in advance is a simple sign of respect.

Culture fit is another part of what the hospitality group has to offer. “Most staff, their work team becomes their family, they hang out on their days off,” says Tamee.

What the construction industry is doing to attract new talent

It’s no news that the construction industry is crying out for workers from labourers to carpenters with infrastructure and residential projects soaking up workers all around the country.

Chris Costanti, General Manager of TradeAssist staffing and recruitment, which finds jobs for people in trades and services, construction, manufacturing and transport, says the company is providing health and life insurance to its staff which has been well received.

With staff retention in mind, knowing that a number of its people are quite international, TradeAssist, which employs 400 to 500 staff in four offices, is giving its people a $2000 travel allowance for when the border opens up to help them fly home.

“We’ve got people from Ireland, England, America, Canada, the Middle East, we employ the best. And it’s available to my temporary staff as well,” says Chris. TradeAssist is paying for staff’s immigration advisers and paying for visa changes, as are other employers.

In construction, a sector that has its peaks and troughs, recruitment firms offering security and a constant flow of projects in all economies, will help attract staff and contractors.

Personnel Touch, a Kapiti Coast-based but national construction and building recruitment firm often finds its employees through word of mouth, says regional manager Dan Hall. And it is its reputation for nurturing its staff that does it, he says.

“Actions speak louder than words,” says the regional manager.

Providing labour to a wide range of infrastructure projects around the country, Personnel Touch offers its workers a consistent supply of work over a long period of time. A large proportion of its contractors have been on permanent contracts for a number of years, says Dan.

Some employees working with other firms won’t know what their next project will be until two or three weeks after they have finished on a job, says Dan. Whereas Personnel Touch contractors will be offered a choice of projects, residential, civil or commercial options, depending on their expertise, well before their current job finishes.

“We’ll say here's three options, which would you like us to tender for? We’re consulting personally, we’re out there working for our employees. It’s different, you don’t find a lot of companies like us,” says Dan.

“Personnel Touch is a family company and we all know one another and we do our best work because of that,” he adds.

Construction job listings were up in 116% in Q2 2021, compared to the same period last year.

What the retail industry is doing to attract new talent

Another sector, striving hard to recruit in the current environment, is retail.

“There’s a real war for talent out there, it’s hard to get good people and you don’t want to let them go,” says Greg Harford, CEO of Retail NZ, the leading national retailers’ association.

Competition between the New Zealand and Australian markets is really tight, says Greg, with employers looking to other retail businesses to try and find talent.

A recent Retail NZ survey found that 88% of retail businesses were offering extra incentives to staff and candidates. Staff discounts are a key incentive, many businesses offer commissions based on sales performance, and some retailers are offering additional holidays, says Greg.

Part of what employers are having to do is better tell their story about what the work actually is, says the Retail NZ CEO, who noted the industry is rolling out retail apprenticeships at the moment.

“The retail industry is not about standing behind a shop counter. Retail is so diverse, it’s not just front of house sales activity but a whole range of logistics, marketing, social media, people leadership and buying opportunities,” says the Retail NZ CEO.

In normal times, buyers get to travel offshore, he adds. “It’s a really interesting and diverse sector, it’s possible to build a career and it’s actually quite well remunerated,” he says.

What the healthcare industry is doing to attract new talent

As nurses are said to be eyeing the Australian market, New Zealand health employers are pulling out all the stops to attract staff.

Josephine Gagan, Group Chief Executive of the NZ Health Group, the country’s largest provider of home and community services, employing 12,000 caregivers and nurses, isn’t too worried that large numbers of Kiwis will head to Australia.

“What we always say is, it does look like a higher salary but if you take into account what comes out from a tax point of view, we feel salaries are comparable when you look at the net amount.”

NZ Health Group nurses are looking after people in their own homes. They like having the scope of a job, being self-directed, being able to come and go, says Josephine. Her staff are also quality coordinators, managers, administrators, supervisors and team leaders.

Josephine says in terms of company benefits: “We are very focused on mental health and wellbeing and not absenteeism but presenteeism. It’s about how engaged our staff are, how much they feel part of an organisation,” she says.

One incentive NZ Health offers is the unexpected reward, says the Group Chief Executive. Someone who’s gone above and beyond and thinks it’s gone unnoticed, gets a letter from Josephine and a spa voucher.

Flexibility is another common desire from staff, adds Josephine. And the organisation also offers its own private training, through the MySkill organisation.

“We also offer succession planning and leadership training from people identified as potential leaders,” says Josephine.

She says 60% of NZ Health hires are word-of-mouth referrals and the group pays referral bonuses.

The group has been attracting people from other industries in the last year, in part through a partnership with the Ministry of Social Development which has led to 1800 people registering interest. “We had a 747 pilot working in the coordination centre,” says Josephine And the group has attracted people who’ve previously worked in hospitality and tourism.

Working in healthcare undoubtedly offers security, says Josephine. “It's a job for the future with the ageing population.”

What the tech industry is doing to attract new talent

CoGo is a NZ start-up app which helps consumers with their business choices based on their values, and works with businesses to do good, for instance improving staff conditions, by paying a Living Wage and reducing their carbon footprint.

Treating your staff well and making them feel valued will help your company be a sustainable business, says CoGo People Experience Manager, Renee Olsen. If you’re going to be a business to last, staff retention can be a huge barrier if there’s constant staff turnover, she says.

CoGo is Living Wage accredited and makes sure whoever works for them, including cleaners and admin, are paid the Living Wage even if they’re not employed by CoGo.

People are interested in working for CoGo because of its mission and ethos, says Renee.

CoGo, which works with bank partners like Westpac in NZ, and NatWest in the UK, is competing with banks and finance companies like Xero for staff. It’s offering a start-up environment versus a big corporate environment, says Renee.

“But that’s why we offer extra things because we can’t necessarily compete with the big boys,” says Renee.

CoGo staff get five weeks annual leave, extra leave on their birthday, an extra day of volunteer leave and a real feature, unlimited sick leave for physical and mental health of staff and their whanau.

The firm with around 23 staff is looking at how it can help support people’s mental health more. They’re thinking of breakout sessions during the week where they do anything from sit in silence for 15 minutes, to sound therapy or yoga.

Flexible working is just standard at the Wellington-based tech company. Renee says: “We’re very keen on working around staff’s lives, whether they have parents or kids to look after, that’s something we’re very happy to support.

“Every single one of us has our own commitments outside of work, work shouldn’t dominate your life, says Renee.

Key takeouts

Some creative ideas you could consider:

  • Offer a signing bonus
  • Encourage referrals for staff retention
  • Offer mental health support such as breakout yoga or meditation sessions, or access to funded counselling
  • Show a career pathway - what is their next step and how do they progress?
  • Offer accommodation support if relocating
  • Host regular staff get togethers
  • Offer flexible working benefits such as a 4 day work weeks or reduced hours to align with the school day