Flexible working hours and wellness initiatives: How Kiwi employers are tackling New Zealand's labour shortage

Increasingly desperate businesses are employing creative ways to lure Kiwis into jobs as the labour shortage drags on.

Beyond Recruitment recently released data showed 95 percent of employers find it harder to find suitable workers now than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a figure that has risen from 27 percent in 2020 and 86 percent in 2021. 

On top of that, 83 percent of employers said it is more difficult to retain staff now than in 2021.

Beyond Recruitment Executive General Manager Ben Pearson told Newshub staffing shortages are the "worst" they've ever been. 

And it's not just finding staff that is causing issues, Pearson said nearly all companies are struggling to keep the workers they have. 

"It's not a new story but it's absolutely the worst it has ever been and it's come on real fast," he said. 

The country was already struggling to find and keep workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and the problem only got worse when the borders reopened. 

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show the country posted a net migration loss of 11,500 permanent and long-term residents in the year to June - the lowest net migration since the 1990s. It comes after a loss of 10,700 people in the year to May and 8700 people in the 12 months to April.  

Pearson said young professionals are jetting off overseas after being stuck during COVID and it's putting huge pressure on businesses. 

"The problem we've got at the moment is the people leaving New Zealand are exactly the people we don't want to be leaving. 

"They're our best workers and the typical profile is someone who's been in an organisation for three or five years. They're really on a great career acceleration. They have really built their skills, they're very familiar with the organisation. 

"They've got that youthful enthusiasm and team sort of dynamic. I call it the engine room of an organisation and predominantly that's the group that is leaving," he said. 

And the dire shortages are leading to more competition with employers increasingly offering added perks to try and entice workers to stay or come to their business. 

What are businesses doing? 

The fight for talent means more businesses are taking note of how happy their workers are, according to Pearson. 

Pearson said flexibility was the biggest lure with companies that offer hybrid work, flexible hours and training and development doing the best. 

A focus on mental health and diversity was also proving successful for companies, especially after the stress during the pandemic. 

"It's been a stressful time for a lot of people [and] we're seeing more mental health issues in the workplace. More people suffer from burnout and stress, so organisations are wrapping around that and really doing something there, so flexibility plays into well-being as well," Pearson said. 

Wellness initiatives, gym memberships and health insurance are also popular. Along with companies that offer more maternity and paternity leave or allow for completely remote work. 

"Number one [thing job seekers are looking at] is company culture and purpose, that's what people are most interested in," Pearson said. 

"The next thing would be leadership, they want to work for inspiring leadership where they can learn something and be the best they can be. 

"Flexibility has come in and has been more of an important factor, so those organisations that don't have much to offer in the way of flexibility are at a disadvantage. Then training and development will be another one."

Beyond Recruitment director Ben Pearson said the staffing shortages are the "worst" they've ever been.
Beyond Recruitment director Ben Pearson said the staffing shortages are the "worst" they've ever been. Photo credit: Supplied

But surprisingly despite strong wage growth and high inflation, money isn't the driving factor for most Kiwis, Pearson said. 

It's a view backed up by a Trade Me survey earlier in the year which found work-life balance was the most important factor for people looking at changing jobs. 

The survey from early this year asked 2198 Kiwis what is most important to them when looking for a job. 

The results showed work-life balance came in the top spot, with 62 percent of respondents saying it was the most important factor in an ideal role. It was followed by job security and stability.

"With work-life balance top of mind for job seekers, employers need to consider flexible and remote working options and be clear about these from the outset," Trade Me jobs spokesperson Patrick Cairns told Newshub. 

Cairns said remuneration came in seventh place, making it clear money isn't necessarily the main driver for Kiwis.