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Gridlocked Auckland is Holding Up Recruitment

By August 18, 20168 Comments

I have long bemoaned, in true whinging Pom style, Auckland’s lack of infrastructure to handle the rapidly growing population of NZ’s largest city. Traffic in Auckland has gone beyond a joke. Whilst the forests of orange cones festooning our clogged arterial routes suggest a significant game of catch-up is being played, the release of the much vaunted Unitary Plan this week means that another 400,000+ abodes can now be built by increasing the density. Building up and out.

By 2040 2.5 million people will call themselves jaffas Aucklanders, many living higher off the ground than they do now, and the hope is for better cycle paths and public transport to cope.  It’s a nice dream but I can’t see much improvement to current traffic woes for quite some time to come.

The Universe did it’s thing recently, as it does from time to time (when it’s not exploding in big bangs or forming new galaxies and stuff like that).  I was mowing the lawns on Sunday when a lady in a high vis jacket suddenly appeared. Our household had been randomly selected to participate in a travel, traffic and commuting survey for Ministry of Transport and she was there to explain what we had to do.  The ruse being, I was to carry a tracking device on me at all times for a week, which would log data about my commute, including driving, walking etc, to help identify traffic hot spots, parking problems, traffic light phases not working etc.

How could I refuse?  At least it’s clear some people somewhere are trying to work out how to sort this mess out.  So this week I’ve been commuting like a criminal on parole, electronically tagged to help provide some data that might come in useful.

The trouble is that any future infrastructure remedies will come way too late for many in recruitment.  For the third time in as many weeks I was informed, this week by a client, that they had lost one of their most cherished recruiters to the increasing absurdity of Auckland traffic.

Not lost as in driving aimlessly around the streets of Epsom trying to work out how to get from the airport to the city (which I’m sure must happen all the time to Auckland’s newcomers), but just ground down by the 2-3 hours of commuting time every day to get into the city to sit at a desk loftily perched among the CBD’s higher reaches to conduct their jobs as a recruiter.

In two of these instances the recruiters have felt forced to find recruitment jobs closer to home as the pressure on our fabled kiwi work-life balance got too out of whack.  The other one has left recruitment all together, despite being a well-respected and high-performing member of our industry.

In all of these instances the employers had tried to make a difference by offering flexibility in hours or days worked but it still wasn’t enough of a difference.

This is an increasing trend, no doubt about it.  And it isn’t just limited to those of us working in recruitment, of course.  The geographical distances that candidates of ours are willing to travel to attend interviews and potential new jobs is shrinking daily, and it staggers me to think of how much productivity is being wasted by the numbers of workers inching their ways around Auckland’s roads every day.

As reports come out that New Zealand’s jobless rate continues to drop, access to talent, and candidates willing to move jobs, is harder than ever.  The fact people are less interested in commuting for increasingly long periods, while the bonkers house prices push people further away from Auckland’s city centre (also making it even harder to attract overseas talent who cannot afford housing on the salaries we can offer) means the available talent pool for recruiters to target and tap into is narrowing significantly.

It feels to me like we’re heading towards stalemate in Auckland recruitment.  Recruiters are having to take longer to actually get to their desks every day, and when there are battling to convince candidates to accept opportunities with clients too far away from their own homes, reducing the number of placements they can make.

In time, we must hope, the impact of the Unitary Plan on housing prices means bringing them down to a level where overseas talent can realistically afford to move their families to begin new lives in Auckland.  And we must also hope that the necessary improvements in infrastructure – roads, tunnels, rail, cycle and bus ways – will be put in place and we can keep commuting times in check.

But in the meantime, recruitment company owners and managers must continue to get creative, and expand their strategic thinking, to attract and retain quality recruiters who can likewise do the same with their own candidate base.  Offering a truly flexible workplace is one thing, but still too many firms pay mere lip service.  Consideration will have to also be given to opening up new offices or satellite branches, as the necessity of having all your recruiters congregating in one small patch of CBD real estate makes less and less difference to their actual outputs as recruiters.

As the saying goes:

“… if Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed.”

Auckland is facing years of traffic pain and gridlock ahead.  Now is the time to work out how to provide a truly flexible working culture and maybe considering new offices nearer to where your staff actually live.

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Kathryn Stewart says:

    Well said.

  • Adam Napper says:

    A very well written piece Mr Rice. I conducted an FJ Video chat yesterday with a very well respected accountant who is leaving Auckland due to the fact that he and his partner can’t buy a house here and commuting times (will be shared on LinkedIn imminently). Having worked in Newmarket myself for over 6 years now I personally would never consider (unless it was a really really great offer of course ;)) working in the CBD again. It would affect my quality of life and family far too much to make it worthwhile.

  • Magali says:

    Thank you Jonathan. I totally agree with your last paragraph. The technology to work remotely have now been around for 2 decades! When are we finally going to use it to support growth and wellbeing in general? Maybe we are all waiting for someone to tell us it’s ok. Imagine working from home, a local hub, creating your own group of coworkers or the library. Winning 1-2 hours to spend more time learning, exercising, having lunch with your spouse and creating change in your community. What the point of living in paradise if you enjoy it 2 days per week.
    What do you want? I have 2 friends who recently asked for different work arrangement (working 10 months out of 12 & working 2 days in 3 days out of the office), they both got accepted.

  • Oscar Dunn says:

    Great article! True for all industries I’m sure but cannot agree more that the race to secure good recruiters is definitely facing stalemate. We have a CBD and South East Auckland office and the ability to attract recruitment talent to either location is becoming more and more difficult by the day! As the Business Manager for our South East branch (with a current vacancy) Im hoping there’s some keen recruiters who want to ditch the daily commute and work closer to home!

  • Greg Howard says:

    Don’t worry your job will be automated by an algorithm within 10 years – watch the traffic start to wane off the arterial routes in the next 4-6 years.

    • Jonathan Rice says:

      Heard this many times before. But within 10 years, that’s a long time frame, and algorithms and automation will certainly have an impact. The job of a recruiter won’t be replaced by this, but it will enable the recruiter to work just as effectively remotely and flexibly. So yeah, that’ll mean less traffic. Unless the recruiter just likes sitting in traffic to escape the noise back home 🙂