Magazine article New Zealand Management

Andrew McLeod on Our Global Talent

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Andrew McLeod on Our Global Talent

Article excerpt

I have a personal view that the "brain drain" horse has been seriously flogged and is awaiting processing at the glue factory.

Sure, New Zealand has a goodly chunk of its population residing offshore--at 24 percent it's the highest proportion amongst developed countries. A recent survey by our organisation Kiwi Expats Association (KEA) was answered by people in 165 countries which, while not definitive, does indicate a widespread Kiwi diaspora.

We also rank second in the developed world for expats holding tertiary qualifications, so our diaspora is far from dim. Some have pretty much qualified themselves out of New Zealand--and the very size of this country means we will never be in a position to fully satisfy the commercial or academic goals of all our brightest stars.

But we are in a position to leverage off their knowledge and networks in offshore markets while keeping them in touch with opportunities at home. As key triggers (such as family) become more prominent in their life, money and position aren't always at the forefront of their aspirations and we get increasing contact from people interested in "lesser" roles in order to satisfy other life drivers.

So what we need to talk about is "brain flow"--an ebbing and flowing tide of talent that can be accessed as a vital resource at any stage. As a nation we need to ditch the paranoia around losing talent, but rather embrace and leverage off the fact that a large proportion of our talent needs to head offshore to fulfil career objectives.

Some will stay there and assimilate into other cultures. A high proportion indicate they would return if presented with the right opportunities. Both groups are extremely valuable to us.

We have the potential to become a global talent farm--a nation that produces highly educated, inquisitive, 'can do' people who, due to our benign status, can transcend political or national barriers.

When nations compete in sailing, for instance, there's a high chance Kiwis have been sought to be at the helm, in the crew or involved in technology backup. Transfer that concept to the boardroom or research facility and the benefits to this country are phenomenal. …

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