Relocating can be a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively. After decades of battling through the commute into the City of London, elbowing my way through the crowds of financiers and brokers, I find myself savouring the relaxed mood that blows in with the warm sea breeze here in Cyprus. However, don’t mistake Cyprus for a quiet business destination because nothing could be further from the truth. We just do things differently here. Or at least, we used to. As a coach this is something I love to pass on to my clients – that you don’t have to be stressed and work 24/7 to produce great results. As the economy here booms, we all need to remember that. It could be the key to ongoing success.
There is a joke you might know about a big shot from Silicon Valley who complains about an Italian restaurant in Rome for opening 5 minutes late. The angry millionaire tells the owner “The USA dominates the world because we always open on time!” and the restaurant owner replies “So what? We Romans used to dominate the world, but then we discovered if you make tomato sauce like mama, the world will come to you… and wait for you to open.” The moral of the story is quality and high performance don’t mean re-creating someone else’s recipe for success. It’s about finding your own path. So, what is the right path for booming Cyprus?
Finding the right path for Cyprus is more complex than it sounds. The Migration Department reports circa 9,000 relocations from international companies. This is reflected in our economic growth – GDP is forecast to grow by around 3.3% this year. Property prices have risen faster than GDP on average over the last 5 years and students and young executives are finding it hard to afford rent or affordable houses, particularly in the booming area of Limassol. We are resilient people, but now is the time for leadership to reduce the problems other boom countries within the EU have experienced before us.
Despite a slowdown in property investment since the abolition of the so-called Golden Passport route to citizenship last year, in 2022 the government introduced more favourable tax benefits for foreign companies to set up their headquarters in Cyprus and have also introduced “The Digital Nomad Scheme” enabling people to enjoy our beautiful weather and quality of life, while working for companies operating outside the country. The scheme aims to transform our business ecosystem by attracting talented individuals and entrepreneurs. This is hugely positive but begs the question of Cyprus – the last nation in the EU to set a minimum wage – how do we make sure homegrown talent benefits from the boom? (Because most young Cypriots report they can’t afford the rising rents or a night out with friends in downtown Limassol). If we learn from EU countries that experienced similar recent booms – in Central and Eastern Europe – two things become clear.
Firstly, company leaders need to focus on talent retention, because there is already a shortage of young local talent in our cities, and that will only get worse as more companies arrive. Holding onto the best new local hires and managing local talent will offer cost benefits over recruiting from outside Cyprus. Training and coaching, reduces staff turnover dramatically (studies show 30-50%) – so coaching for emerging Cypriot professionals should help to encourage them to build careers here, not leave for destinations where rents are cheaper to make their wages go further.
Secondly, if we want our young people to benefit from these opportunities, we need to invest in mental fitness and resilience. Young workers aged 18 to 30 are perceived to be under almost twice as much pressure as their more senior peers, being more likely to suffer from stress and worries about debt or struggling to pay their bills. If we want to avoid a brain drain of young talent moving to cheaper parts of the EU, leaders need to offer coaching programmes that prioritise wellbeing, resilience, and mental health at work, in addition to talent retention programmes and rewarding loyalty with competitive salaries.
There has never been a more exciting time to live and work in Cyprus, but leading effectively through rapid growth – and change – means learning from previous EU regional booms to avoid storing up problems for ourselves in the future. That’s how we do things in the more relaxed, older and wiser cultures of the Mediterranean, isn’t it?
Sophia Petrides is a Finito mentor