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New Zealand's Muffled Boom

With a highly skilled population willing to work hard, stable agriculture, and thriving industry, New Zealand can weather almost any economic storm. The economic slowdown of the early millennium did not affect this southern country as harshly as many others. Soon on the rebound, New Zealand found itself experiencing a boom of sorts.

Good news? Most would say yes, but the growth required a massive expansion of infrastructure, which in turn depended on skilled construction labor. And there was not enough of that needed labor to do the work.

In May 2004, the headline from Auckland was direct: "Builders plead for help as workload crisis threatens projects." The threatened projects included vital public works, such as hospitals, schools, universities, and prisons. Already short 3,000 workers, Auckland's construction docket was slated to double in the next year, with $3.2 billion in work proposed. As a result, construction workers who were making $20NZ per hour in 2000 now commanded $32NZ, a 60 percent increase over 4 years. The rising costs had already forced some projects to redesign and others to scale back. Some apartment developers had even been forced to ask for more money on units already sold.

As a result, builders turned to the government for help in finding this vital talent force of construction workers, wherever in the world they were located, and in getting them to the job sites. Some companies even asked for governmental relief with their payrolls as wages skyrocketed.

The government has responded by offering incentives to expatriates who return home to work. New Zealand is also considering unique work visas for construction workers interested in visiting the country, which many consider the most beautiful in the world. As this example illustrates, the scarcity of Q-Talent can hinder progress, even an economic boom. To find Q-Talent, creative solutions, such as the ones that New Zealand's government introduced, are required.

If having the right talent in the right place at the right time can affect the fate of nations, how can it not affect your company and your industry? In fact, the people you need to solve your most pressing issues and embrace your greatest opportunities are not that different from the CEO of GE, railroad laborers in nineteenth-century America, farm workers in Zimbabwe, or construction workers in New Zealand. These people all represent Q-Talent, those who apply valuable knowledge and skills to the needs of a project, organization, or even a country.

Every organization that wants to remain competitive must create a plan to acquire the right talent and ensure that talent is available for the work that needs to be done today and in the future. The next chapter looks at major worldwide trends that you need to consider as you begin planning your organization's approach to acquiring and retaining Q-Talent.

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