Building on the success of our recent webinar in partnership with the New Zealand Institute of Architects, we’re back with a short and sharp blog post to ensure you stay well-informed. The architectural employment landscape in New Zealand has seen its share of ups and downs over the past few years, and in this post, we aim to provide you with a brief yet comprehensive update on the industry’s latest developments. 

Post-Lockdown Boom and Talent Demand 

After the lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand experienced a remarkable boom. Companies expanded rapidly, leading to a surge in demand for architectural talent. This, in turn, drove salaries up significantly as businesses competed for skilled professionals. 

Recession with Unusual Features 

However, the architectural market took an unexpected turn in November 2022. Despite a cooling economy, New Zealand entered a recession with unemployment levels holding steady at 3.6%. This is unusual in a slowing market. The minimal slowdown has meant that we haven’t witnessed the usual wave of redundancies or significant downsizing. 

Immigration Dynamics 

 A key factor in the employment landscape: 

  • Visa Changes: Since 2022, there have been substantial changes to the visa system, primarily concerning working visas. Employers now need accreditation to hire overseas talent, which involves a multi-step process. 
  • Incoming Immigration: While immigration numbers dipped during the pandemic, 2023 has seen an upswing. However, it doesn’t necessarily equate to more available workers due to complex visa processes and the need for immediate productivity. 
  • Outgoing Talent: On the flip side, many New Zealand architecture firms have seen their staff members head overseas, with a significant 62.5% reporting such experiences. Each citing reasons like unfavourable weather conditions, postponed overseas experiences due to COVID-19, and the allure of higher salaries. This exodus has led to companies implementing strategies to retain talent. 

These strategies proven to be successful include: 

  • Sabbaticals: Instead of losing employees to international opportunities, some companies have offered extended time off in the form of sabbaticals. This approach allows professionals to travel and rejuvenate while ensuring their return to the company. 
  • Return Bonuses: To incentivise employees to return promptly from their overseas experiences, some firms offer return bonuses when staff members rejoin the team within six months of their departure. 
  • Overseas Contracting: With the capability to work remotely, some employees have continued to work for their New Zealand-based companies while overseas. This arrangement leverages time zone differences to complete tasks overnight while New Zealand sleeps, allowing for a seamless workflow. 

Job Market and Salaries 

Here’s an overview of the current job market and salary trends: 

  • Listings: Job listings in 2023 are down by 15% nationwide compared to the previous year. Architecture and IT have experienced the most significant drop at 45%. 
  • Regional Relocation: People are moving out of key centres in pursuit of a better work-life balance, leading to increased opportunities in regional New Zealand. 
  • Salary Growth: Over the last few years salaries steadily increased due to the talent shortage and industry growth. However, the rate of increase has slowed down in 2023. 

Candidate Motivations 

Understanding what motivates candidates is crucial: 

  • Work-Life Balance: Nearly half of all candidates (49%) now consider the ability to work from home a must-have. Additionally, 43% are delighted when this option is on the table. It’s clear that flexibility in work arrangements is highly coveted, from an employment perspective, if you don’t offer flexible working you effectively reduce your potential talent pool by half.
  • Salary and Compensation: A striking 63% of candidates prioritise the highest offered salary when considering job opportunities. This underscores the importance of competitive compensation packages. 
  • Culture: When it comes to workplace priorities, a staggering 79% of candidates prioritise organisational culture, with a particular emphasis on a respectful environment. This figure outpaces considerations like work environment, management, and career development. It underscores the pivotal role of workplace culture in attracting and retaining top talent. 

Future Predictions 

The future of work in architecture is likely to involve a balance of office and remote work. Clear communication, fixed remote workdays, and maintaining company culture are becoming increasingly important. 

As we navigate these shifts in the New Zealand architectural employment landscape, staying informed and adaptable is key to success. Stay tuned for more insights and advice on thriving in the architectural industry. 

– Grada