Hi-tech fix - pay staff more

Canterbury's information and communication technology (ICT) firms need to boost salaries by 15-20 per cent if they hope to compete with other regions for staff.

That is the advice of Absolute IT director and South Island general manager Kristy Ward after the release of the ICT recruitment firm's latest remuneration report.

The report canvasses 27,500 ICT professionals, more than half the number of people working in ICT in New Zealand. It reveals the base median salary for an ICT professional in the South Island - unchanged from a year ago at $70,000 - trails salaries in Wellington ($81,000) and Auckland ($75,000), but pips Hamilton/Bay of Plenty ($69,000).

The national base median salary is unchanged at $75,000.

Canterbury firms, struggling to recruit staff, needed to offer up to 20 per cent more to attract candidates, Ward said. It was "a big ask" for candidates to take a salary cut to come to Christchurch.

Many firms wanted to hire Cantabrians, or candidates with New Zealand experience, which could be difficult. "It's like robbing Peter to pay Paul," Ward said, as the same people were circulated between firms.

"It would be great to see fresh talent come into the market."

Certain specialised skills were in huge demand in the region. One firm had been seeking six .NET developers for three months and not found anyone, Ward said.

One of the challenges in drawing staff to Christchurch was the rising cost of living in the city.

"[The cost of] housing and the cost of living are going up, but are the salaries there?"

The argument that Christchurch offered a more attractive lifestyle than other places no longer held up. "I don't think Christchurch can say it is a great place to live any more."

And it was too much of a pay cut for expats working in Australia to return. However, the sector was "on the cusp" of change, and Ward expected employers to start offering higher remuneration in the next 12 months.

Although ICT staff tended to place the most value on remuneration, firms were increasingly offering additional benefits which would not hit their bottom line.

Allowing staff more freedom with working hours, annual leave and other benefits helped attract and retain talent, the survey showed.

The report showed an increase in flexible working hours, company paid training, extra annual leave, health care subsidies, phone allowances, car allowances and stock options.

Fifty-five per cent of all ICT staff now receive additional benefits as part of their remuneration package.

The Press