Top in Talent: Wellington, New Zealand Attracts Global Tech Talent

DCI is always on the lookout for incredible talent attraction stories. Earlier in the year, we got wind of a particularly interesting campaign in New Zealand’s capital city, and we couldn’t help taking notice.

Wellington, NZ is a rising center for tech and creative industries, located at the very bottom of the country’s North Island. With ocean views and a vibrant culture, this city would seem like an obvious choice for professionals looking to advance their careers. However, following an all too familiar narrative of places throughout the world, Wellington companies were struggling to attract talent, particularly in the tech industry.

The Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA) recognized this problem and came up with a solution, the LookSee Wellington talent attraction campaign, launched in February 2017. This idea would eventually go on to earn them the 2017 Innovation award from Economic Development New Zealand. DCI recently had a conversation with David Jones, the General Manager of Growth and Innovation at WREDA, reflecting on the experience.

“What you’d find if you came to Wellington is that people are deeply passionate about this place. It’s a compact city that seems to attract people who have an aspirational career and quality of life,” explains Jones.

Campaign Overview

Centered around global tech talent attraction, LookSee Wellington took the world by storm. Project partners WREDA, recruitment agency Work Here and Immigration NZ, created a well-designed website and video with a simple application, seeking qualified professionals interested in making the move to Wellington. In return? Selected candidates would be flown out free of charge and be given a week of networking with top New Zealand companies, as well as information sessions about immigration and daily life. Organizers of this campaign knew that to really attract talent to their location, candidates had to see the city for themselves, up close and personal.

After several top media outlets such as the New York Times, Forbes and Mashable got a hold of the story, qualified applicants from across the world flooded in, totaling well over 45,000.

Jones explaines, “It’s been an incredible campaign for the level of ROI, with millions of dollars in media coverage; for the level of investment we put in, it’s fantastic.”

When it came time for the week of interviews, executives from top companies were thrilled with the candidates who were invited to Wellington. As of today, 40+ people have either begun living and working in Wellington, or are moving through the interview and immigration process.

“It’s been great giving people the opportunity and platform to go and fulfill their ambitions. For us as a city, continuing to bring in more candidates will make an incredible difference to our economy,” says Jones.

The LookSee story doesn’t stop there, either. Not only are candidates from the original applicant database connecting with new Wellington employers and job opportunities on an ongoing basis, other regions of New Zealand are lining up to present their employment opportunities to the talent pool. The LookSee model is also being expanded by Workhere for New Zealand’s booming construction sector, with LookSee Build.

What DCI Loves About This Campaign

Solved a Problem Many Local Employers Were Facing

Talent recruitment was a reoccurring issue for many employers in the Wellington area. When the concept of LookSee was brought to local companies, WREDA was met with enthusiasm on several fronts.

According to Jones, “[Recruitment] was a common issue that was potentially constraining a lot of employers in our great potential market. As we proposed this campaign it just struck a chord with everybody and addressed a problem that was felt by a number of companies.

Provided Practical Resources for Moving to New Zealand

LookSee’s commitment to helping new talent make a smooth transition immigrating to New Zealand set this campaign apart from others. With a full week of events for attendees and involvement from Immigration New Zealand, Work Here, WREDA and professional tech organizations, candidates were given huge opportunities.

“In the mornings we put on information events around buying/renting houses, schooling, immigration and other practical things necessary to move around the world. Afterwards, candidates who were invited to set up interviews were given arrangements to meet with various employers.

“In the evenings we hosted events about Wellington life; everything from mountain biking to visiting national museums, craft beer/wine tasting events and more. We wanted to give them a range of experiences we have to offer,” describes Jones.

Helped the City of Wellington’s Brand

When asked about the biggest takeaways from the LookSee campaign, Jones spoke on behalf of the city: “The brand of Wellington has been hugely enhanced by the LookSee Wellington campaign and has helped position us as a technology hub. We were looking for an opportunity to tell that story and this gave us a chance to do it, so from a marketing point of view it’s been worth its weight in gold.”

What this campaign managed to achieve went far beyond a few dozen new employees; LookSee put Wellington on the map not only as a great place to live, but also as a great place to relocate in the tech industry.

Sought Out Talent for the Long Term

A factor that sometimes gets swept under the rug in talent attraction is a commitment to long-term relocation and creating a sustainable workforce that will last. WREDA recognized this and specifically targeted candidates who were serious about relocation.

Jones explains, “According to Immigration New Zealand, from the time you decide to move to actually doing it takes about 18 months… We recognized it’s a long-term commitment from Wellington, the employers and the candidates. If they’re serious about moving, then we’re going to help make that happen.”

This campaign is a great example of the magic that happens when an idea resonates with local stake-holders and talent. Wellington identified a need in their economy and provided a realistic solution that companies simply could not pass up. Moreover, not only did they accomplish their main goal of bringing in new tech talent, but they also enhanced their city’s brand and earned millions of dollars in media coverage.

In his personal blog, Allen Geer—one of the candidates selected from LookSee—puts it simply: “There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t been immensely thankful that somewhere on the other side of the world, on an isolated island in a little city, a group of folks put together a contest to bring me to Wellington.”

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