UPFRONT : Andrew McLeod on Our Global Talent

I have personal view that the “brain drain” horse has been seriously flogged and is awaiting processing at the glue factory.
Sure, New Zealand has goodly chunk of its population residing offshore – at 24 percent it’s the highest proportion amongst developed countries. recent survey by our organisation Kiwi Expats Association (KEA) was answered by people in 165 countries which, while not definitive, does indicate 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 position to fully satisfy the commercial or academic goals of all our brightest stars.
But we are in 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 vital resource at any stage. As nation we need to ditch the paranoia around losing talent, but rather embrace and leverage off the fact that large proportion of our talent needs to head offshore to fulfil career objectives.
Some will stay there and assimilate into other cultures. 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 global talent farm – 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 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.
Hence Kea’s recently launched Global Talent Centre (GTC) which is committed to three things.
Firstly, to help departing Kiwis secure offshore opportunities via our network, while providing them with conduit to stay in touch with the New Zealand scene while they gain valuable experience/training offshore. By remaining in touch, we’re better able to present opportunities that ‘coincide’ with personal circumstances to elicit return.
Secondly, to expose current expats with the opportunity to remain current with their understanding of the New Zealand market and present relevant opportunities both in New Zealand and offshore.
Thirdly to provide an opportunity for those Kiwis not coming home to act as ‘agents’ referring opportunities to the networks within the country/market they’re living and working in.
The GTC won’t stray into recruitment agency territory. But we will function as centralised conduit between recruiters/employers and talented individuals, providing credible channel to desirable but previously hard-to-connect-with audience.
If we convert all our survey respondents, we already have 28,000 people on our database (that’s before any official marketing has taken place) and our goal is to have 200,000 people registered within 18 months. That’s lot of people – with lot of networks.
Put that in the context of small country competing in global markets with limited resources. Imagine how it could help to have one million offshore ‘secret agents’ who, with their networks alone, could give us competitive edge into their markets.
So far, GTC has around 11 partners in the commercial, academic, research and executive search centres and I would encourage those who believe in the objectives of the Kea network and GTC concept to contact us if they are in position to provide support.
One of our aims is to become the ‘must visit’ service for senior career opportunities both within the global expat community and the domestic market. It’s case of going with the flow.

Andrew McLeod is general manager of the Global Talent Centre. www.keagtc.com or www.keanewzealand.com

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