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The 2018 Diversity Awards NZ: Winning recruitment initiatives attracting young workers

The 2018 Diversity Awards NZ: Winning recruitment initiatives attracting young workers


Recruiting and retaining young people in the workforce is one of the biggest challenges facing HR professionals working across many New Zealand industries.


With millennials expected to make up 50 per cent of the global workforce by 2020, businesses need to innovate to meet the needs and expectations of this newest generation of talent. But there's no one-size solution. The 2018 Diversity Awards NZ showcased a range of successful initiatives helping organisations engage with young workers across different skill levels and career stages.


 Switching up recruitment


Like many New Zealand construction companies, Fletcher Building is grappling with a building boom and a labour shortage. The organisation is also acutely aware that too many young New Zealanders are unskilled and unemployed.


Its solution was to completely disrupt its recruitment process for entry-level workers, by launching a new online platform, Switch Up (, to make it easy for young people to find and apply for a job.


The initiative won the Tomorrow's Workforce category at this year's Diversity Awards NZ.


Fletcher Building was finding traditional recruiting processes were discouraging young people from applying for roles, says Senior Talent Acquisition Business Partner - Emerging Talent Rochelle Grant.


"Many young people don't have the knowledge, life skills or confidence to apply for roles using traditional methods.


"We realised by changing the way we recruit, we could gain access to a pool of talent that would give us a competitive advantage in today's tight labour market."


Working with students from One Tree Hill College, Fletcher Building researched what young job-seekers were looking for and how to take the 'fear' out of the application and selection process and came up with Switch Up.


It's not a typical job board. Job seekers don't need a CV or covering letter; they create a profile and indicate whether they are interested in working in customer service or as a labourer, forklift driver or operator. The platform adopts a conversational tone and job descriptions are replaced by videos of current young Fletcher Building employees demonstrating real jobs and tasks.


Since Switch Up was launched in November 2017, there have been 2000 visits to the website, and 1000 job applicants have created profiles. Fletcher Building has held six open days with 50 prospective candidates and placed 14 of those into fulltime, permanent positions. In March 2018, a new Emerging Talent Business Partner role was created to drive this initiative, and the frequency of open days will increase.


Fletcher Building aims to place 60 candidates into permanent roles through Switch Up by the end of 2019. This number will increase as more business units start recruiting through this channel - currently 10 of the 21 business units in New Zealand use Switch Up.


Alongside the new recruitment process, Fletcher Building has launched a customised four-month development and pastoral care programme, Connect, for new youth talent joining the business. Participants attend Connect during work hours and the programme provides training in life skills such as budgeting, communication, time management, goal setting and confidence.


This new strategy is ensuring one of New Zealand's largest listed companies is attracting the young people it needs and actively supporting them to thrive once they join the business.


 Checking out a career


Leading retailer Countdown's challenge is convincing young Kiwis that supermarkets are a valid employment choice, both for school leavers and tertiary graduates.


Traditionally, says Culture and People Advisor Samantha Gray, supermarkets are viewed as a popular option for part-time jobs, but not a place to build a career.


Setting out to change that view, the company launched the Countdown Graduate programme in 2015, initially employing eight candidates. Run across a 12-month period, it enables graduates to build capabilities in a chosen business stream by giving them access to real projects and responsibilities.


Countdown attends career expos and employer presentations at universities to attract applicants for its graduate programme. Following the initial application, graduates go through a rigorous recruitment process. If selected, their careers at Countdown start with a one-week orientation, launched by the Managing Director, which includes introductions to senior staff and an overview of the business.


Graduates are then rotated around the business to gain meaningful learning experiences.


To date, the original eight participants still work at Countdown, and several of the graduates have gone into leadership roles or specialist areas.


However, the graduate programme only helped create roles for youth who had attended university. So, Countdown launched its SEEDS (Students Entering Employment and Developing Skills) programme to cater for young people who were unsure about a career choice and looking for an alternative pathway to tertiary education.


SEEDS offers high school students the opportunity to work in a store for 10 days across a 10-week period, getting experience in all the supermarket departments and earning NCEA credits to support their education. As well as learning important retail skills, the students can build their confidence and are introduced to several career possibilities.


A pilot scheme with two students ran at Countdown's Lincoln Road and Lynnmall stores - both students were offered part-time roles at the end of the programme. Countdown had 68 SEED students in stores around the country in the first half of 2018 and aims to increase this to 100.


For Countdown, the payback for investing in these young people's future is staff who offer fresh thinking and new ways of doing things.


 The flex solution


Accounting software company Xero has a young and highly skilled workforce. But Millennials are not wedded to traditional ways of working, and the company has discovered that flexibility is key to retaining its top talent.


Xero introduced Activity Based Working (ABW) in its Wellington operation, allowing individual teams to organise areas within the office to fit with how they want to work, instead of giving each employee a desk in a fixed layout.


This helps to meet the changing needs of staff as their activity at work changes. It also allows more employees to fit into a smaller space in a way which enables them to still work flexibly and productively and ensure collaboration across teams.


The company also introduced Xero Snooze and Xero Bounce. Snooze allows employees within the Customer Experience department to start 30 minutes either side of their start time, and finish either earlier or later at the end of the day. Bounce lets employees in the same department who wake up feeling unwell take a few hours extra rest to see if that will fix the issue. If not, they can stay home for the day. Both these initiatives work within an app developed for employees to let their managers or supervisors know where they are.


These flexible working initiatives, which contributed towards a highly commended recommendation from the judges at the Diversity Awards NZ™, have benefitted the organisation in several ways. Xero's Employee Net Promoter Score, which measures employees' engagement in the company, increased from 23 in January 2017 to 35 in January 2018. Employee happiness scores, which measure happiness at work as well as work-life balance, have also improved from 72 per cent to 77 per cent in the same period.


Giving their people an element of control over how they do their jobs and run their lives has proven to be a simple, cost-effective solution, allowing Xero to attract and retain the best talent.


You can read more case studies on how New Zealand organisations are creating an inclusive culture and positively impacting employee engagement and business performance at



Rachel Hopkins is the Chief Executive of Diversity Works New Zealand, a national body that provides trusted advice to workplaces across all diversity dimensions. Funded by employers and government in partnership, Diversity Works New Zealand promotes, facilitates and celebrates the diversity in our workplaces that is creating a more inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand





By changing the way we recruit, we could gain access to a pool of talent that would give us a competitive advantage in today's tight labour market