Winning the war for talent | New Zealand

Are you wondering how to retain people in your organisation?

Even before Covid-19, New Zealand companies were concerned about their ability to retain and replace key staff. Since the start of 2021, the ‘war for talent’ has escalated with a huge demand for skilled workers in certain sectors and a shortage of suitably qualified candidates.

Stories of Australian headhunters targeting Kiwi workers, IT graduates being offered starting salaries of over $200,000 to cross the Tasman, and huge pay increases for in-demand candidates, highlight how challenging the recruitment market is.

It’s not just due to Covid. The gig economy has changed how we think about work. The quaint notion of a ‘job for life’ is a thing of the past, making it more challenging than ever to attract and retain staff.

Covid changed how we work (e.g. working from home and flexible working arrangements) while the lockdowns gave people time and space to consider the work they did and who they worked for. When Covid first hit, the uncertainty of what lay ahead combined with dire predictions for the global economy caused most organisations to put a freeze on recruitment. At the same time, most people were prepared to sit tight in their jobs and ride out the pandemic.

More recently, as we’ve come to accept that Covid isn’t going anywhere soon and the global economy is improving — despite the challenges still facing many countries and industries — people are feeling a lot more confident about changing jobs. Border restrictions have drastically reduced New Zealand’s access to the global talent pool so Kiwi employees are spoiled for choice with candidates often weighing up several opportunities.

“The war for talent has hotted up significantly,” says Mark Hutchinson of Divergent & Co. “Organisations are losing people to competitors and to more lucrative opportunities overseas. Losing key talent has always been an issue but it's become more critical than ever that organisations establish a rigorous succession and talent identification pipeline.”

“Companies invest so much time and money into the recruitment process but up to now they haven’t tended to focus enough on retention. The job market is changing rapidly so you need to identify your key people and make sure they're on a defined development pathway or you will lose them. If you don't manage your internal talent, you end up with no choice but to go to market.”

The average cost of finding and hiring from outside an organisation is much more expensive than promoting from within. Every time you lose an employee you also lose their IP, years of experience, and continuity on critical projects.

“Management needs to know who the key personnel are at each level of the organisation,” says Hutchinson. “Who has the right attitude and the ability to adapt and grow with the business? Who has the potential to be a future leader?”

To help answer those questions, Hutchinson teamed up with Fiona Hancock at Added Insight to develop the Talent Potential Solution, a comprehensive talent identification and management system underpinned by a sophisticated online survey and reporting tool to make talent identification easier and more effective for organisations.

Both Hutchinson and Hancock have over 20 years experience in leadership consulting and organisational development. Hutchinson is a trained clinical psychologist and Hancock is a registered organisational psychologist. Some of the early adopters of the Talent Potential Survey include Chorus, Public Trust and New Zealand Post.

“Working with clients, we'd been aware of the need for something like this for quite some time,” says Fiona Hancock of Added Insight. “There are some talent identification tools out there with lots of bells and whistles but not much science behind them. That’s what makes this tool so valuable.”

The survey is based on first principles from psychology, human potential and performance and Hutchinson’s experience of working with leaders in different sectors and organisations globally over 20 years.

"One of the survey’s great strengths is that while it is grounded in theory it translates this into observable behaviour, delivering a very pragmatic and simple tool for managers to use” says Hutchinson.

“Without a tool like this, leaders are essentially flying blind. They're hostage to their own biases without realising it. They promote people largely based on gut feeling and intuition. The Talent Potential Survey is a more objective way of assessing your talent pool and is designed to help line managers make better judgments. It can also help organisations analyse and address issues with diversity and inclusion.”

Fiona Hancock describes it as the “mini-me phenomenon” — the tendency for managers to promote people like themselves or people that they like. It is a well-recognised dynamic in social psychology that we like others who are similar to us. This makes reliance on intuitive talent decisions problematic when we consider the critical need for increased diversity and inclusive work practices within our organisations. This phenomenon makes it challenging to create diversity in leadership tiers at the pace required. A structured assessment tool reduces the impact of the unconscious biases and assumptions that we all have while the data helps inform the broader talent conversation in organisations.

The survey results highlight people’s strengths and the areas they need to develop. It also considers potential derailers like defensiveness or a tendency to be overcontrolling, and how this impacts potential.

“Many organisations don’t have the framework or tools to effectively differentiate between performance and potential,” says Hancock.

“So they promote people who are great at performing in their current role but who may fail in the next role because they don’t have critical potential attributes or may not have the engagement or aspiration to progress into a more senior or complex role.”

As well as providing valuable insights on leadership talent within the organisation, the survey can also act as a red flag for managers completing the assessment.

“If a line manager is struggling to answer some of the questions then maybe they need to have more conversations with their team about their aspirations or concerns,” says Hutchinson. “The survey isn’t a blunt tool or a silver bullet solution. It's not a replacement for good line management; it's an aid to good line management. It supports line managers and HR to have better talent conversations and helps organisations manage people and their careers in a more intelligent and empathetic way.”

“People usually leave organisations because they don't feel they're growing. Most companies have figured out how to create good working environments for their staff but not many have figured out how to ensure their key staff feel valued. A tool like this will help organisations identify, manage and keep great people so they've got the leaders they need for the future. It’s like having a secret weapon in the ‘war for talent’.”


Explore our latest Talent Potential Report and explore the findings behind the Talent Potential solution and how organisations are using the A.I.M model to give a more rigorous view of potential and reduce the unconscious bias.

More Talent Potential Resources

Talent Potential data report
Even before Covid-19, companies were concerned about their ability to retain and replace key staff. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been huge demand for skilled workers in many industry sectors and a shortage of suitably qualified candidates.
Case study
Streamline the talent identification process | Chorus
Chorus was coming to the end of the broadband fibre network roll out across the country and there was a critical need for the organisation to think differently about how they identify talent. This led Chorus to partner with Added Insight and Divergent & Co to assess the leadership capability in the organisation.
Winning the war for talent
Explore our latest Talent Potential Report and explore the findings behind the Talent Potential solution and how organisations are using the A.I.M model to give a more rigorous view of potential and reduce the unconscious bias.