Retaining staff in Northland: solutions for NZ businesses

Published 23 May 2023 | 2 min read

As New Zealand's economic climate faces challenges, businesses in Northland are finding innovative ways to retain their staff. With the retail sector and construction industry experiencing risks, employers are seeking strategies to ensure their financial viability and maintain a motivated workforce. This article explores the employment landscape in Northland, the potential repercussions, and how businesses throughout New Zealand can adopt similar solutions to address their staffing needs.

Current economic challenges for Kiwi businesses:

Despite a positive outlook for employment in Northland, economists caution that businesses must adapt to remain financially sustainable. Infometrics principal economist Brad Olsen highlights the eroding factors behind the building industry's growth and the increasing risks faced by the retail sector. Rising interest rates and reduced household budgets limit consumer spending, leading to more intense competition for retailers.

While challenges persist, Northland's employment momentum remains upbeat. Recent data from the Infometrics Quarterly Economic Monitor reveals a 2.6% increase in employment during the March 2023 quarter, slightly above the national average. Various corporate and public sector industries have experienced substantial growth, particularly in professional services, government, health, and education roles. The influx of workers due to rising net migration has contributed to this positive trend, albeit with restrained future job intentions.

So, how can Kiwi managers approach staff retention?

Amidst the ongoing staffing challenges, Northland businesses are implementing creative solutions to retain their employees. Restaurateur Lloyd Rooney, for instance, addresses the accommodation issue by providing short-term housing to his staff. By owning and letting houses, Rooney eases the pressure on finding suitable living arrangements, ensuring his employees have stability upon arrival. Transient backpackers with relevant experience are also welcomed, allowing them to contribute their expertise while searching for long-term rental options.

As Northland's experiences shed light on successful retention practices, small to medium businesses across New Zealand can learn from their approach. Cash flow management and cost reduction emerge as critical factors for sustainability. It is crucial for businesses to monitor their finances closely and rein in unnecessary expenditures. By adopting a proactive approach and evaluating market needs, companies can make informed investment and staffing decisions that support long-term growth.

While challenges persist, NorthChamber President Tim Robinson emphasizes that businesses should remain attentive to potential opportunities arising from changing circumstances. Companies that can adapt and respond to evolving market conditions may benefit from proposed infrastructure investments. For example, Culham Engineering stands to gain from infrastructure projects. Conversely, sectors like tourism and education continue to face difficulties due to the lingering effects of COVID-19 and adverse weather conditions.

Professor Jonathan Elms from Massey Business School suggests that small businesses in customer-facing industries, hospitality, and tourism sectors must embrace creativity to ensure their survival. Reimagining business models and adopting flexible approaches, such as self-service options and online ordering systems, can alleviate pressure points and enhance customer experiences. Being nimble and proactive in addressing changing market demands can contribute to the long-term sustainability of these businesses.

As Northland businesses navigate the challenges of a changing economic landscape, they offer valuable lessons for small to medium businesses throughout New Zealand. By prioritizing staff retention and adopting innovative strategies, businesses can weather the storm and thrive in uncertain times. The key lies in closely managing finances, creatively adapting to changing circumstances, and investing in long-term sustainability. As New Zealand businesses strive to retain talent amidst a competitive employment market, adopting these strategies can foster resilience and growth.

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