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The war for talent – Hawke’s Bay’s Talent Attraction Strategy

Hawke’s Bay is buzzing. Our local economy is one of the best performing in regional New Zealand. Consumer confidence is high, unemployment is at a 10 year low. The labour market is tight and that means that competition for workers (not only in Hawke’s Bay, but around New Zealand) is expected to remain strong.

Our businesses are doing well, but what they need to sustain that growth is more people with the right skill-sets and experience, along with work-ready employees. It’s a significant challenge to business growth and one that if not addressed, has the potential to curb our economy’s upward trajectory.

One of the ways that we can address our talent shortage is to develop the local workforce; it’s a key focus for business and iwi leaders, central and local government. The other is to attract people with the skills we need.

That puts Hawke’s Bay in direct competition with other regions of New Zealand, all who have the same aspirations for their region; to drive growth. Simply put: talent drives business and skills drive talent.

Currently only 2 percent of all skilled international migrants coming into New Zealand, find work in Hawke’s Bay. If we want to grow this skill-base opportunity, we need to do something different. We know there are widespread challenges in attracting candidates for niche, specialist, managerial, and technical roles. Employers and regional leaders need to think innovatively about talent attraction and retention. There’s a clear need for a strategy and a joined-up approach that sees Hawke’s Bay go to battle in the war for talent.

That’s where Hawke’s Bay’s Talent Attraction Strategy comes in. Think Hawke’s Bay (a collective made up of Business Hawke’s Bay, local councils, Hawke’s Bay Tourism, Napier Port and Hawke’s Bay Airport) is developing a competitive strategy to attract skilled talent. This is a new initiative for the region and a key deliverable of Matariki, Hawke’s Bay’s Regional Development Strategy for Economic and Inclusive

Growth. Specifically, the strategy addresses Pillar 5: “Promoting our place: attracting visitors, talent, businesses and investment to strengthen and diversify our economy.”

Craig Ireson, Economic Development Lead for Central Hawke’s Bay District Council says the goal is to develop a strategy to inform our skills attraction campaigns, by looking at the skills gaps and then identifying who needs to be attracted and what the key attraction drivers are for them.

Carolyn Neville continues: To be clear, the strategy is not focused on Regional Seasonal Employer skills; that’s already being done well, and the strategy also doesn’t cover every industry. Instead, the focus is on technical, leadership and transferrable skills, and industries that will deliver the greatest impact. The strategy which is close to being finalised, has identified initial sectors to focus on, based on growth and skills needs.

The type of skills profiles that we’re targeting encompasses those with higher level formal education and training, work experience and on-the-job-training, particularly covering managerial, leadership and professional roles, support workers, technicians and trade workers.

Most importantly, the strategy identifies the opportunity for Hawke’s Bay to do something different. Almost every region has mid-career candidates with families as a key focus of their attraction campaigns. This is a highly competitive segment. Other age groups and household types such as late career or couple households are largely untapped and could offer additional value to Hawke’s Bay.

Effective talent attraction requires more than a marketing campaign. Other important considerations include wrap around support to help people settle in once they’ve moved, to integrate into the community, both socially and professionally. Our strategy adopts a talent management framework that recognises talent attraction and retention requires a holistic eco-system to be truly successful.

Adopting such an approach takes time to implement comprehensively, so priorities for action in the short and medium term need to be identified. Getting these essential foundations in place means that we have a greater chance of keeping talent in our region. Very few regions provide active settlement support, with Auckland leading the way with its talent attraction activities.

In profiling Hawke’s Bay, we need to consider people’s aspirations and motivations for relocating and ensure that our campaigns strike the right note to get them here. Once they’re here, we need to reinforce our attraction messaging with onboarding and retention programmes to help them settle in well, put roots down and network, so our hard work and their faith in Hawke’s Bay is rewarded with a long term or permanent relocation.

In summary our talent attraction strategy is a mix of targeted activity to attract skilled talent alongside the staged development of key talent management tools, built around three pillars:

1. Targeting the right skilled talent – focusing on transferrable skills, management and professional skills along with sector specific technical and trade skills

2. Targeting the right people:

  • –  mid stage career with technical and trade skills, business professionals (single, couple or family)
  • –  late stage career with transferable higher skill-sets (single or couple)3. Developing the tools required – including marketing, transitional, management and reputation tools to help people/families settle in and thrive, professionally and personally

Of course, underpinning all this targeting is our existing narrative around lifestyle and ease of living; but people also need to know that Hawke’s Bay offers lifestyle plus a great range of career and business opportunities, community involvement, networks and new challenges. And the chance to stay connected to existing networks. It’s not all about the wine!

Attracting entrepreneurial, technical and professionally skilled people is critical to driving growth and making our region more innovative and sustainable. Hawke’s Bay’s Talent Attraction Strategy is the way that our region will compete more effectively both nationally and internationally, in the war for talent. Great things grow here!