27 Jun 2021

The Great Resignation: nearly 40% of Kiwis looking for new jobs

From Sunday Morning, 9:50 am on 27 June 2021

Texas A&M University's professor Anthony Klotz recently coined the phrase the 'Great Resignation' during an interview, predicting that people who stayed put during the uncertainty of the pandemic are now getting ready to jump ship.

His comments have been backed up by a recent Microsoft study which found that 41 percent of the global workforce would consider leaving their employer within the next year, while in New Zealand, a study by Hays garnered similar results.

The phenomenon is said to be propelled by the realisation people can have a different life and spend more time with family when they work remotely, and that some may now feel less connection with their workplaces.

However a Trade Me survey found only 17 percent of people intend to leave their jobs in the next year, despite the site measuring about 40 percent more job vacancies than before the pandemic.

Adam Shapley, managing director of Hays in New Zealand, is with us to discuss.

A Hamilton woman says her ten year search for work has uncovered employers bad attitudes to disabled job hunters.

Photo: 123rf

He says the biggest factor on the jobs market is a shortage of potential employees resulting from the pandemic.

"Border closures for me is the critical factor in the jobs market in New Zealand right now - there is a shortage of people across every profession in New Zealand.

"We're also seeing a record numbers of vacancies with ourselves as a recruitment company, but also jobs boards and other organisations are going through a high amount of hiring.

"Our survey had the New Zealand market and particularly in the North Island, the most optimistic in [Australasia]. So organisations are actively looking to hire, and that's a result of what is effectively a positive economic situation in New Zealand right now."

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What has Shapley noticed is feeding into employees' itchy feet?

"There's a range of things, we've come through a disruption in the world that we haven't seen for decades. People have gone through a big change to how most of us work. They've had a great experience with some organisations, and others not so much - they might not have felt supported."

Those who haven't had a good job experience during the pandemic may have been prompted to plan job hunting in the near future or to rethink their career direction, and others may have become interested in greater flexibility in their working life, he says.

"All of those factors are at play, and I think there's an element of pent-up demand."

Both the Trade Me and Microsoft surveys agree people have become more interested in lifestyle.

Shapley agrees lifestyle factors are important, but says for most people they still aren't the most important factor.

"The survey we've done suggests that money and career and progression right now are the important factors people are looking [at when they look] to move.

"But now every organisation - every role where that's possible - flexibility, ability to work from home, technology solutions that make your life easier have now become less of an 'I'd like that'.

"They're now in the category of 'we'll give you a cup of tea at work'."

Many workers have developed new soft skills in the pandemic work environment.

"Many of us have learnt lessons of how to communicate with people and what works, what doesn't.  There's been a very important requirement to develop verbal communication skills and visual communication skills.

"There is far more willingness from organisations to hire for aptitude to learn new skills. And border closures obviously necessitate that.

"There are lots of opportunities for people if they do choose to put their toe in the water."

However, when it comes to career and salary progression there can still be a 'grass is always greener' factor at play in job applicants' thinking. But the reality is that: "salaries aren't house prices," he says.

"We're seeing a bit of release of the pent-up demand. There's been very low wage inflation for many years, so there's possibly a little bit of correction.

"And we're seeing this particularly in construction and trades, hourly contract rates are going up, and people in the technology space are earning very substantial pay rises both in permanent salaries and in contract."

Look for training opportunities

Shapley says for those job applicants looking for new opportunities it's worth being aware of the potential training and development opportunities a firm might offer, but staying realistic about the capacity for such opportunities.
He says New Zealand in particular is a country of small businesses, and a vast proportion of those will have fewer than 20 people.

"An organisation of that size is going to have limited training and development opportunities. In today's day and age, self-development, taking ownership of your own development is an important thing to do.

"For large organisations that's a real point of difference that they're able to sell on, that investment of training and development of their staff.

"Some technology frontline managers are taking the approach that "I've got a great team who know what they're doing, I don't need to hire people that can [already] do this, we will train them to do it.

"We want attitude and cultural fit. Where they know they're not going to get the all-singing all-dancing person, they're willing to build on some base skills, which I think is a very good shift in hiring attitudes."