Everyone should want to work here right?

We all know attracting talent to the regions should be a cinch, but often candidates in big cities can’t see past the sizeable drop in income they will likely have to wear.

I spoke about this recently at a meeting of the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Consultant Surveyors. This group, made up of the owners and directors of surveying companies in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, face the same struggles as many other industries in luring talent from a small nationwide pool.

I’m not a specialist surveying or engineering recruiter. What I am however is a specialist regional recruiter. Recruiting in the regions is very different to recruiting in Auckland, Sydney or London. We do things differently in Hamilton, Tauranga and Rotorua and by getting a deeper understanding of what your candidates really want, you can attract the best.

All of us at Ryan and Alexander have spent time working overseas and in other parts of New Zealand. However, one way or another, we were recruited back into regional New Zealand. So we know the process from both sides.

Why is it so hard to attract people to the beautiful BOP or Waikato? Everyone should want to work here right?

Moving to the regions is a nice idea, but in reality there are many considerations which make candidates hesitant.  It’s not just a matter of having a great job coupled with an excellent lifestyle and work-life balance.

They worry: Will my partner secure a job? Will our children get into the school of our choice? Will we form a social network? Are our sports and hobbies offered in this town? What are the restaurants like?

The other issue is salary. Yes, a candidate on $100K in Auckland may expect the same in Tauranga, but once we break down the benefits and opportunities of living in a region, we find their base salary expectations reduce considerably. It is crucial to focus on why they want to move in the first place – reduced commute time, lower transport costs, lower house prices, better lifestyle and work-life balance.

And then a great employer will offer some sweeteners. An extra week of annual leave, an early finish one day a week to watch the kids’ swimming or ballet. You can offer an employee a small parcel of shares in your company or, as like when I joined R+A, provide a health and wellness allowance. With initiatives such as these, you will get dedicated, committed and loyal employees.

Finally, the interview is key in this whole process. Most candidates don’t actually know what it’s like to work in the regions or the provinces. Yes, it’s a nice idea but what does that mean? Do they know what an 8-minute commute to work looks like? Do they know how easy it is to go for a mountain bike or a surf at lunchtime?

You know as you live it each day, but a potential employee who has spent an hour getting to work, has fought for a carpark, has paid $6 for a coffee and is working in a concrete jungle – do they know that? Get them to drive or fly down for the day, put them up in a hotel and invest some time to show them what you are about. Get them out on site, drive by your projects, organise a drink with the team. That $500 investment could be the clincher in signing on talented, experienced and loyal employees who never realised how much they would love life in the regions.