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Culture key to Kiwi organisations avoiding mass employee exodus

Tuesday, Sep 7, 2021

Photo of employee leaving job packing belongings from desk into a cardboard boxWith research showing that more than 40 per cent of employees globally are considering leaving their jobs in the next year, New Zealand workplaces need to look urgently at building a culture that champions the individual aspirations of every single person in their team.

Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Maretha Smit says local organisations will not be immune to The Great Resignation, a term coined by Texas A&M University’s Professor Anthony Klotz to describe a current socio-economic event in which record numbers of employees, across the globe, are leaving their jobs.

His prediction that people who stayed put during the Covid-19 pandemic will start looking for new jobs is backed up by a recent Microsoft study which found that 41 per cent of the global workforce would consider leaving their employer within the next year.

Professor Klotz’s work suggests money is not the motivating factor for change.

“There seems to be two main drivers for this phenomenon,” Maretha says.

The first is that people hung onto jobs, regardless of how they felt about them, during the period of economic uncertainty created by the pandemic. But this will no longer be the case as life returns to a more ‘normal’ footing.

Secondly, the shift to remote working suited many people, who may abandon an employer who insists on restoring workplace practices to pre-pandemic settings.

Even those organisations who continue with a hybrid arrangement may find that their acceptable ratio of remote working versus time in the office does not meet the expectations of some of their workforce, Maretha says.

“With a reduction in the prominence of money as a motivator, we will need to learn, faster than ever, how to earn our employees rather than buy them.”

While Aotearoa New Zealand is in lockdown or just beginning to emerge into a less restricted world, it’s a good time for business leaders to redefine their company culture and avoid returning to life as we knew it.

“What do you want to stand for in terms of your relationship with employees? Engage in meaningful conversations with your people and establish what it is that they love about their work. What are their aspirations and how could you use your organisational platforms to support their individual growth journeys?”

Pre-pandemic cultures, and even pre-pandemic diversity and inclusion strategies, may no longer be appropriate in a post-pandemic world, Maretha says. “We have all learnt so much about ourselves, our values and our aspirations.”

Employers also need to pay attention to those who may not have the same ability to change jobs easily, such as immigrants bound to jobs based on visas and low-wage workers.

“This is not the time to put additional strain on people who are already dealing with difficult conditions. How organisations treat their vulnerable employees is part of its culture and part of how the rest of the workforce will assess their own willingness to be associated with that organisation.”

In a post-pandemic world, with a recovering economy, low unemployment and significant changes to immigration settings, job options will be plentiful, Maretha says.

“The employers who are likely to retain or attract the top talent will be those who make haste with getting their remuneration systems in order and equitable, but then think longer term about a culture that champions the aspirations of every single person in their team.”


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