The Shout Magazine (New Zealand)

Is employer bias a contributor to talent shortages in New Zealand?

New Zealand’s talent shortage may be less ‘a shortage’ than a tendency to overlook the hidden potential in people, according to recruitment company M2M (Move To More).

Employment coach and Director of M2M, Kathryn Sandford, says that some employers’ obsession with finding the right ‘fit’ is a significant reason behind much of New Zealand’s so-called talent shortage.

“In a so-called talent shortage, the best strategy is to become more conscious of how quality talent may be hidden from sight due to personal bias and the inertia of ‘business as usual’,” she says.

New Zealand is presently struggling with a talent and labour shortage as it emerges from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the NZIER’s Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion showed that lack of labour is the biggest constraint for businesses.

Sandford says worldwide staff shortages leave New Zealand companies with little choice but to rethink how they look for talent.

“Seeking the right ‘fit’ risks falling prey to people’s biases since the right person often requires the minimum change from the business itself,” she says.

“A candidate becomes attractive simply because they can slot into business-as-usual and hit the ground running.

“While that’s mostly fine during normal times, it unnecessarily limits the pool of great candidates in a tight labour market. It can be easy to overlook excellent talent completely.”

She says the problem with limiting a talent search to people with the right cultural “fit” is that it tends to ignore those with genuine skills, even if it means re-arranging the company’s processes to accommodate them better.

“It is important to look for someone who could ‘add’ to your company culture by bringing a diversity of thought to the role.”

Adopting a “cultural add” mindset rather than “cultural fit” is about switching from the frame of scarcity to thinking from abundance.

“The world of work is changing. It is different to what it was pre-Covid. People now have different priorities in how they want to work and who they want to work with,” Sandford said.

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