Quakes prompt career reflection

Last updated 12:30 08/02/2014

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There is no doubt the Canterbury job sphere is evolving at a rate of knots. The rebuild offers a multitude of opportunities for employees and employers alike.

Other than the obvious trends relating to skill shortages recently highlighted in the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment Skills Shortage List including; construction project managers, quantity surveyors, engineers, carpenters, bricklayers - wider human resourcing issues are appearing.

From staff jumping ship to employers going to extra lengths to attract staff, the shift in HR behaviour is keeping the region's employers on their toes.

In a market where demand exceeds supply, employees are examining their workplace options. Christchurch based human resource consultants Brannigans have observed an overwhelming trend of professionals undertaking Executive Coaching, reassessing their key drivers and examining their career options.

This is resulting in them not only switching workplaces but often a complete career change.

Sally Wynn-Williams partner at Brannigans HR consultancy says that employees are grasping opportunities to take their skillset into a completely different industry that they may not have considered before.

"The earthquakes have given people a chance to reflect on their career.

"People are prioritising what's important and for many this prompts a career change or shift, and now there is the opportunity to do this," said Wynn- Williams.

Recently one of Brannigans Executive Coaches met with a civil engineer who was really unhappy with his work/life situation. Through self discovery they found that his main drivers were influence and meaning, and his values were to help others develop. As a child he'd always envisaged himself as a teacher but his father (who himself was a teacher talked him out of it) through discussion with his employer and because huge shortage of engineers at the time they decided they would create him a new opportunity to become training and development manager.

Employers are beginning to see the advantages of this approach. "Companies are just starting to become a little bit more open and looking at a person's industry background and wider experience. They are looking at a broader picture".

National industrial employment specialist Tradestaff has observed a marked increase in high-demand/ highly skilled employees moving organisations in search of better pay rates in the last 12 months. "Trades people are provided with the option to move into an organisation they have always wanted to work for; or the opportunity for future promotion. They are also faced with the chance to learn new skills or do work they previously haven't had the opportunity to do. But, most often, the move is about the pay rate," said Janice McNab general manager Tradestaff.

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Increasingly less skilled candidates with a good work ethic and attitude are also finding there is a big demand for their services.

As the employment squeeze continues it is becoming continually more important for employers to be mindful of retaining staff.

Increasingly businesses realising the benefits of measuring their staff engagement in order to find out the areas where employees aren't happy. They can then look at ways they can improve this in the workplace.

Increasing staff leadership capabilities is a win-win for organisations and employees alike. "An engaged workforce has a direct correlation to productivity and therefore an organisations bottom line," said Wynn-Williams. Brannigans consultants have seen considerable jostling for senior positions especially within the city's law firms.

There are sizeable opportunities for experienced lawyers looking at moving up the company ladder - particularly at the equity/partner level.

Auckland lawyers who have been sweating it out in junior to medium level roles are relocating to Christchurch with the prospect of entering into a more senior role.

The ability to fast track your career on the back of the rebuild is becoming a major draw card for the region.

As salaries for professional roles in Christchurch become more comparable to those in Auckland and Wellington, employers also grappling with increased market pressures have to think of alternate ways of attracting quality candidates. Employers are now working with employees to find out what is valuable to them, for example, work/life balance, opportunities to job share and remote work options and trying to meet these needs.

The projected leap in trades salaries in Christchurch has not yet eventuated, with pay rates currently only marginally higher than in other regions.

This paired with higher rent/ property prices in Christchurch doesn't make moving to Christchurch from centres such as Auckland an attractive choice for experienced/more established tradespeople with steady work streams.

Tradestaff have seen younger, less experienced workers relocating into the region from parts of the country where construction is fairly dormant, such as the Hawke's Bay. "Employers cannot rely on Kiwis moving to Christchurch to fill roles where there are skills shortages. Hiring immigrant workers is one option needing to be considered by organisations that need to increase staff numbers and for many this is a significant shift in thinking," said McNab.

Both companies agree that being recognised as an employer of choice is critical. "Employer brand and reputation become vital in a candidate driven market," said McNab. "You need to be recognised as an organisation people want to work for, and that people recognise as a market leader."

To address this issue employers are investing more in their online presence to showcase their brand and to reach younger staff. Activity includes social media, generating video content for their websites and staff acting as online advocates to ensure their company is perceived as an attractive option.

Recruiters are also seeing a shift in the businesses operating in the region. Attracted by the areas growth, many Auckland and Wellington firms are setting up offices in Christchurch, particularly in the professional services and construction sectors. Staff are increasingly being relocated to Christchurch, which is an appealing option for those people who want to be part of the city's exciting transformation.

"Moving to Christchurch is all about a lifestyle change and the unique opportunity to be on the ground here while our city is being rebuilt." said McNab.

"People are now willing to make the move to Canterbury whereas 18 months ago it was literally impossible. They're seeing Christchurch as a positive lifestyle choice - and an easy and exciting place to live," said Wynn- Williams.

Power couples are also attracted to Canterbury and what it has to offer post-quake. Expats and skilled migrants are finding Europe a less attractive option. Christchurch now offers opportunities that other cities in the world don't, especially in light of the ongoing and recurring issues associated with the global financial crisis.

While housing prices are on the rise, highly skilled couples can still afford to live in the leafy or beachside suburbs here - something they may not have been able to do overseas. The daily commute is also a lot less time consuming than in cities such as London, which means more time for socialising and enjoying the outdoors. "Christchurch is now seen as that safe and attractive place to live - we're seeing a much more fluid workforce similar to that of Auckland or Sydney," said Wynn-Williams. "This influx of young highly skilled talent is also giving rise to a generational shift in the city's business leadership.

This column was supplied with input from Brannigans and Tradestaff.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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