ADVOCATE COLUMN 4th WEEK DECEMBER 2016
We constantly hear of businesses expecting to experience difficulty employing workers and the perception that a percentage of New Zealand’s potential workforce is not in fact work-ready. While there may be some truth in this; it is probably an over-simplification of the issues surrounding the labour market, people transitioning into work and the disconnect between supply and demand. Depending on what side of the fence you are on will probably colour your view as to whose problem it is and who is responsible for solving it. Generally many will think it is someone else’s problem and if you are business owner you may blame the education system, tertiary providers, the government, young people today or just about any convenient target you can.
Unfortunately it does not really matter who is to blame, but rather who benefits from solving the problem. At present there seems to be some really innovative and focussed work being done to address how future workers can be better work-ready. I would like to think that over time engagement between business and education sectors better articulates what constitutes work-ready and how future workers can be better prepared to enter the work force.
There is however another side of the equation and that relates to how employee-ready business owners actually are. Just as a potential worker needs a certain set of skills and attributes to be ready to work so does the potential employer. Given the high percentage of very small businesses that make up New Zealand’s business landscape and the fact that many may not actually employ anybody or only go through the process of recruiting workers on very rare occasions, many of our business owners may have some work to do in building their own capability in creating a workplace that is ready for the worker.
There is an obligation to recognise that both today’s workplace and today’s worker is different from 10 years ago and likely to continue to change, become more diverse, more dynamic and more demanding. Owners need to recognise this and equip themselves to the skills needed to be part of the solution. After all if an owner does not have the skills to ensure they can find, recruit and retain workers then they will not have the ability to grow their business. The converse is that if they have the capability to grow their work force then their business can be more successful and sustainable.