Covid-19 has taught businesses the world over the need for an open mind and agility.

If we are looking for an upside of the virus that has crippled the world for a year and a half, it is that employers have become much more aware of the health and hopes of their employees.

Some employers have adjusted well, while others are trying to fight the tide and go “back to the way things were”.

It is pretty clear things will never go back to the way they were, particularly on the employment front.

New Zealand has a chronic shortage of workers due to our indefinitely closed border and aggressive immigration settings.

Workers have a different set of expectations to what they might have had at the start of 2020, pre-Covid.

The Road Transport Forum has discovered as we roll out our traineeship Te ara ki tua Road to success, that transport companies are no different to many others in New Zealand.

The New Zealand employment landscape has for many years shared that relaxed approach the country is famous for. People are promoted to management without any skills and training, but just by virtue of being there a long time or being related to someone who matters. Human resources is the short straw given to someone who was away at the time the straws were handed out. As long as people were turning up to work every day and were doing what they were told, no one bothered too much with caring about whether or not their employees were happy or wanted some kind of development and career progression. If they left, it was easy to replace them.

That landscape is now unrecognisable. It has been excavated big time. The unemployment rate for the March 2021 quarter is 4.7 percent. There are no new people coming into the country and some of the visa holders who are here are having to leave. It’s an employees’ market.

Younger people entering the job market have different expectations to their parents. They can afford to be selective and they vote with their feet.

Employers need to change quickly if they don’t want their businesses to suddenly be crippled by a shortage of workers. To take on trainees to ensure sustainability of their workforce, they need to have some basics in place.

A trainee needs training. Some of that will be provided externally, but the employers need someone in the company to train and/or mentor those new to the industry and wanting to learn all they can.

New Zealand presents a challenging environment for many people and their employers need to have enough human resources capability to deal with the fact that people have problems that can impact on their work. Dealing with those problems quickly is best for everyone.

Covid-19 has thrown up a few problems of its own, including burnout and stress.

We also have strict health and safety at work laws which hold boards, as well as chief executives, accountable. And the road freight transport industry is heavily regulated.

The RTF is doing all we can to get new people into the road freight transport industry and there is a lot of interest in the Te ara ki tua Road to success traineeship from both employers and potential trainees. Since we launched in April this year, 36 transport businesses have signed up and are either already working with their trainee(s) or awaiting an appropriate match. We have had 184 applicants sign up to become a trainee. We are very pleased with this progress in a couple of months of existence.

We need employers to be business ready for a trainee and we guarantee a few changes to accommodate new staff will be worth it in the long term.

As we all discovered during Covid, there is a lot of information for businesses on line, including from the Employment New Zealand website

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