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Employing for Growth in 2021


The sudden arrival of Covid-19 in early 2020 changed everything for small businesses. Occasional natural disasters aside, never in living memory have New Zealand businesses had to face sudden total lockdowns, work-from-home orders, social distancing and closed borders – all in one year. 

The result is that it’s never been more important to consider very carefully who you employ, how you structure their role and ensure their productivity.

So what should small businesses know about the HR market changes and how to recruit effectively to boost growth in the New Year? 

We asked Kyle Wright from IT Job Search for key employment trends and his thoughts on how to employ the right person for your business in 2021.

1. Flexibility is now expected and essential to attract talent. 

Think that having your staff working flexible hours, working from the home office etc is a short term trend? Think again. This trend has been coming for years and Covid-19 has just made it the new norm.

When the first lockdown happened, it forced all kinds of companies to digitally transform, because a lot of staff had to work from home and it was very, very sudden. And when the country changed the alert levels again, it cemented the trend for good.

It meant businesses needed to be able to provide access to files and databases and software so that teams and individuals could work together seamlessly wherever they were – whether it was at the kitchen table, or the socially distanced office. 

As a result, a whole generation of workers now know they can still be productive without braving the rush-hour commute. They can take a walk or drop the kids off at school before their work day and get just as much – if not more done. 

Will they give up this freedom after the vaccine has done its work? Our research says ‘No!’.

Flexibility is now expected and essential. And workplaces that offer it are becoming sought after. Gone are the days where you could say to a candidate, “Here’s the office, this is where you will be based nine to five, Monday to Friday.” 

Candidates are now the ones saying, “Where’s the flexibility? Can I work from home? I want to do school hours. I need to be able to nip out and pick up kids.” 

And it’s only partly because of COVID, it’s also because Millennials are asking for it. So, if there’s a shortage of skilled people out there, you’ve got to make your company attractive to those people! If you’ve got all the right tools and you tick all the boxes for flexibility, whatever it might be that they’re looking for, that’s a big advantage.

2. Living in the Cloud

If you’re still working off your in-house server and expecting your staff to do the same, it’s time to look to the Cloud.

Having your servers and your databases and work platforms in the cloud (plus all the software you need to work with it) enables people to work from anywhere. 

If you’re new to the term, ‘in the Cloud’ it simply means all the tools are on servers somewhere around the world and you can access them at any time via the internet using tools like Google Drive and Apps, Amazon Web Services, Dropbox and the like, or using tools like Zoom for video conferencing, Slack for team chat, or Todoist for collaboration.

If you’re looking to hire people, having that technology already sorted with your business is a big attraction. It shows that you’re open to flexibility and working remotely because you’ve already put in the infrastructure to do it. It makes it possible for someone to just hit the ground running. 

With the combination of skills shortages due to closed borders and the cost of living in the big cities, some of the talent you’re seeking may well be based in other centres around the country  – in Waihi or Palmerston North for example.

People are returning to New Zealand and thinking, “I don’t want to live in Auckland because of the house prices.” 

So they’re moving to Tauranga, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Wellington, other areas, so being set up for those remote, flexible workforces is great. It means that you can tap into the right skills for your business, wherever they are. 

3. Why Hire when you can Contract? 

In the dark days of lockdown, many businesses were faced with the hard decision whether to lay off staff, or top-up the wage subsidy to keep them on the team. Companies that were using contractors didn’t have to face that reality. 

Many businesses are now choosing to dip into the contractor market, whether it’s for 3, 6, 12 months, or however long the project might be, saying; “We don’t want to hire someone full time because we’re not really sure if another lockdown is going to come or if the work is going to continue to flow in.” 

Contractors are a little bit more expensive in terms of hourly rate, but you don’t have to pay their holiday pay, their sick leave, or tax. They do all of that themselves. So, there are a lot of ways where you’re actually saving money by getting a contractor.

My belief is that use of contractors is going to grow. And I think it’s going to be good for small businesses when they can’t afford to have a full-time employee to say: “let’s do this for 6 months and see how it goes. If we get in enough work, we can make them permanent.” 

It’s a tool a small business can use. And it’s not just a one-sided deal. The contractor gets the flexibility they’re seeking as well.  

It’s not unusual to place somebody in a role as a contractor, and soon after the client will contact us wanting to make the contractor permanent. But on the other side of that coin, we’re often finding that the contractor will say: “Hey, I actually like this way of lifestyle a little bit bitter. I get paid a bit more than what I was. Yes, I have to take care of all my own stuff, but I don’t like taking leave. So I’m just going to work through my leave days.”

4. Diversity is not a dirty word

Diversity can be a really tricky concept for an employer – but it’s actually a necessity, not just for the public face of the company, but also for the way a business interacts with other people, other businesses, other employees. 

Employers want the right skills first and foremost but this can often lead to the employer ignoring great talent with different skills and viewpoints. Having a diverse range of people in your business in terms of gender, culture, religion, everything – people from different cultures, with different ideas, different ways of thinking helps a business evolve and adapt to changing markets. 

These employees will bring different skills, they’ll have different roles that they’re good at, they’ll teach other people within the business, not just about work, but about where they’re from or what they do or what they get up to. 

Jacinda Ardern just released the most diverse list of MPs ever. Joe Biden’s just done the same thing in the United States. People are already understanding that diversity is key. 

It will be from now on.