Magazine article New Zealand Management

Comment on Managing the Brain Gain

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Comment on Managing the Brain Gain

Article excerpt

If sport can be said to be an analogy for war, professional sport has useful parallels with executive talent management. All New Zealand employers, including the NZRU, are dealing with the challenges of open markets, attractive overseas offers for their best employees and the question of how to replace players in a season's time.

In business, like professional rugby, the rules are changing. To compete, New Zealand needs a class of entrepreneurially minded business leaders who understand how to do business in the global economy and are able to identify and maximise opportunities. We need these skills because our economy is becoming increasingly interconnected with the rest of the world--an environment characterised by its speed.

The training ground for managers in New Zealand is limited. We need to think laterally about how to build management skills. One obvious source is returning expats who have gained management experience offshore.

I believe that something of a mindset shift is needed to ensure employers and shareholders can make the most of expat skills, akin to developing a diversity strategy.

In this article, I make some observations based on my experiences rejoining the local business community after several years away from New Zealand.

Firstly, a look at the challenges faced by expats when readjusting to the dynamics of doing business in New Zealand. While the size of New Zealand companies should facilitate quick decision making, the lack of resources available to business (corporate and start-ups) acts as a brake. The relative impact on the business of any mistake is increased which creates an environment of caution. People who have enjoyed the faster pace of deal making can find this mood of conservatism disquieting.

The rate of migration means that business contacts are just as likely to be overseas too, presenting another hurdle to reintegrating into the business community and networks.

Expats return to find that legislative and social change did not stand still during their absence, requiring extra homework to understand the regulatory and political environment. Those intending to work for or sell to the Government will require an understanding of Treaty of Waitangi obligations and sustainability, particularly if they wish to move up the conventional corporate career ladder.

As the majority of corporate jobs are based in Auckland, returning expats may find themselves swapping one large city for another, with all the trappings of urbanisation, but without the salary. New Zealand can seldom pay world-class salaries but relies on 'intangible' benefits to attract talent. We happily cite the benefits of New Zealand's lifestyle and trade them off against salary. …

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