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Digital Brain-gain Presents Opportunities, Challenges For NZ Businesses

A digital talent recruitment expert says COVID presents businesses with a rare opportunity to make the most of the inflow of digital talent returning to New Zealand - the first time this country has ever experienced a “brain-gain” in this field. However, she warns there are some potential traps that businesses need to avoid.

Amelia Cranfield, founder of Campfire – NZ’s specialist recruitment agency for digital marketing, digital media and e-commerce jobs - says the ongoing lockdowns and border restrictions have resulted in businesses realising that an online offering is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, but now it is a ‘must-have’.

It has also forced businesses to develop or improve their digital offering, urgently. Companies that do so will fare better now and in the future. Thus, businesses of all sizes are prioritising their ‘digital transformation’ projects.

“Usually, it’s tough to access great digital talent because there has been a dire shortage of these people in New Zealand. But now, lots of ex-pat Kiwis are returning home and bringing their digital skills and experience with them,” she says.

However, Ms Cranfield cautions that businesses need to be aware of the potential pitfalls and take steps to mitigate them.

“Many businesses have no idea where to start in their digital transformation, or awareness of the traps to avoid.

“There’s a massive demand for digital talent, so businesses need to move quickly because great candidates are getting snapped up quickly,” she says.

However, there is a risk that businesses making hasty employment decisions to secure talent in this very competitive market may end up getting the wrong talent for what actually needs to be done. This could be disastrous for any business, but more so for ones under significant financial strain as a result of Covid-related revenue decline.

“These challenges are compounded by businesses already being very busy and time-poor against a backdrop of the digital field being a rapidly changing and ever-evolving one,” Ms Cranfield says.

“Others feel overwhelmed by the digital talent recruitment process and worried about the implications of hiring the wrong person. Add COVID-related challenges into the mix, and things can quickly go off the rails - resulting in expensive mistakes at a time when businesses need more than ever to be operating cost-effectively.

Six top tips for businesses seeking to make the most of the digital brain-gain

  1. Be very specific about exactly what the business needs this role to achieve. This will help to narrow down the exact digital skill-set required and ensure the hire is based on actual rather than perceived need.
  2. Larger companies are usually best to hire a senior person who can form the digital transformation strategy, then allow them to hire a team to focus on the implementation side of things.
  3. Smaller companies often gain the most cost-effective result by hiring a mid-level person, who can assist the company to develop its digital strategy, then can execute it.
  4. Offering flexible working conditions can be useful for attracting great talent.
  5. Rather than rushing to hire, utilise the services of a digital agency or contractor to pick up the slack temporarily. This buys the business time to spend on hiring the right person.
  6. Look beyond just publishing a job advertisement. Digital experts are hot in the market so ask your network if they know people, look on LinkedIn for anyone suitable who has just arrived back home, attend (virtual) networking and industry events where the right people might be. Speak to specialist digital marketing, media and e-commerce recruitment companies who have access to this talent. In other words, spread the net far and wide.

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