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The “Hobbit Effect” on recruitment

The “Hobbit Effect” on recruitment

Optimal Usability, a New Zealand based company which helps its clients create world-class user experiences, says the Hobbit Effect is helping it secure top shelf international practitioners.

CEO, Kris Nygren, says his company is thankful to Sir Peter Jackson for drawing global attention to New Zealand via the movies he’s produced from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

“We’ve coined it the Hobbit Effect,” says Mr Nygren . “It is near impossible to find experienced practitioners in our field in New Zealand, but thanks to the success of these movies we’re finding it easy to recruit from overseas.

Optimal Usability currently employs 20 people who help New Zealand’s leading companies and institutions create world-class user experiences spanning from mobile apps to airline seats to complex service design.

He says the Hobbit Effect has meant that accomplished experience designers in the US and Europe don’t hesitate to jump on a plane and come and work with his company’s clients in New Zealand – either on short term contracts or by moving here permanently. “These guys feel that they know a lot about New Zealand without ever having been here – and the Lord of the Rings trilogy has had a huge role to play in building this awareness.”

For example, Optimal Usability currently has a very seasoned experience designer from Ohio working short-term on a project with a client in Wellington. He brought his wife and five kids on an overseas adventure to experience New Zealand.

“We have another senior US practitioner with a Master in Science in Human Factors in Information Design waiting on his immigration papers to join Optimal Usability in New Zealand on a permanent basis” says MR Nygren. “He will join an already multi-national team counting Americans, Canadians and two German consultants on our team.”

Overseas recruitment is balanced with hiring smart Kiwis with a passion for user experience and design. Mr Nygren says the company’s options are either to hire smart graduates or very talented designers and train them in user-centred design methods, or to recruit experienced practitioners overseas.

In 2012, the company has taken on-board two graduates and an experienced digital designer who are in the process of learning its methodologies. Among its team, Optimal Usability has people with arts degrees, cartography, anthropology, design, marketing and IT, including a PhD in Information Systems. Kris Nygren says “we have a really interesting mix of people with diverse backgrounds and degrees that is very conducive to great experience design outcomes”.

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