The key to solving the talent shortage

There is a pool of talent in New Zealand that is largely going untapped, writes Mela Lush.

New Zealand is experiencing a labour and skills shortage. Labelled as the Great Resignation, according to BusinessNZ the shortage is so dire that there is currently only one person for every two jobs.

But what if I told you that this missing talent is still in the country and, according to the World Health Organisation, accessing it is the key to long-term economic and financial viability for New Zealand and the rest of the world.

All it would take to access this talent pool is a shift of mindset from a shortage to an abundance leadership mindset. Moving away from the traditional thinking that one must be seen to be working and be trusted, to one where employees are trusted, nurtured, and enabled to reach their fullest potential.

If Covid has taught us anything it’s that you don’t have to be physically in the office to get things done.

Jobs for Mums is a digital marketplace connecting forward-thinking employers with New Zealand’s largest reservoir of untapped talent – mums. 

With approximately one million mums in the country, this talent pool is large, local, and skilled.

Although the concept is not new, for the first time in history the market conditions are just right to initiate a movement for more family-friendly work practices to drive better outcomes for both families and businesses. 

Mums are overwhelmed and fed up

According to the Guardian, during the pandemic, women’s participation in the paid labour force is now the lowest it has been in more than 30 years. 

The trouble is nowadays the village support we once had is fleeting. The societal expectations are high. Childcare is expensive.

And despite growing initiatives to support both parents in the workplace, journalist Sarah Catheralle, writing in Stuff, says mums still carry the bulk of the parenting load at home. Under these conditions, it’s no wonder families are burnt out and flexibility continues to be the number one motivator for women with children, according to Seek.

We have made leaps and bounds when it comes to being more flexible in the workplace in the past two years. According to Seek, while only 19 percent of employees worked with flexible conditions before the pandemic, now 35 percent of workers expect these conditions.

However, flexibility is more than working from home. In many cases, mums might negotiate flexibility into their work schedules, but these privileges are not often publicly acknowledged and/or negotiated on an individual basis. 

According to the Ministry of Women’s return to work study, the scarcity of flexibility offered in the workplace could be a reason why a large percentage of women are underemployed a decade after their first child.

Jobs for Mums asks the question, what would happen if we made true flexibility available to families? This is the concept of working when it works for you.

 Instead of focusing on offering flexibility as a tick the box option, we start thinking about what it is that families need to live happier and more productive lives.  

Achieving true flexibility requires asking leaders to consciously focus on output rather than input. 

Alison Andrew, chief executive of Transpower, said there was no one set way that companies could expect flexibility to work for them. 

Challenges can vary for businesses of different sizes and across industries – there is no one size fits all solution. However, there are many other ways an employer can demonstrate family-friendly values, even if they can’t offer full flexibility.

Businesses could provide extra paternal leave during the school holidays, subsidise childcare costs or even offer mental health support to new parents. 

A business could split roles in two to provide job-sharing options and ensure part-time talent is given equal opportunities to grow and develop. 

Offering a win-win

As a talent pool, mums are highly skilled. Educated women made up 60 percent of New Zealanders with a post-graduate or honours degree, according to data from the 2018 census.

According to the 2020 Diversity wins McKinsey & Company study, companies that effectively engage female talent are 45 percent more likely to report improved market share.

In addition, parenting is an excellent teacher of highly desirable leadership soft skills such as empathy, negotiation, and critical thinking to name but a few. 

In contrast, with the rising cost of living and many mums looking to get back into employment, Jobs for Mums gives them an avenue to re-enter the workplace on better terms. 

Mela Lush is the founder of Jobs for Mums.


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