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“The Great Resignation” And The Race To The Top

By October 15, 2021No Comments

A few stats to kick off today’s musings:

People thinking about quitting their job for something better. Survey of 1000 NZ workers across public and private organisations.

High Turnover Thoughts (i.e. those wanting “out”):

May 2020:  35%

Dec 2020:   40%

April 2021: 46%

Source: AUT Wellbeing@Work / NZ Herald

According to Dr Jarrod Haar, an HR Management Professor at AUT, we are currently looking at a workforce as dissatisfied as many of my ex-girlfriends. Nearly half of us are looking to change jobs, and it would be easy to put this down to dissatisfaction. However, there is more to the numbers than meets the eye. The term “The Great Resignation” was coined in the US to describe the post-Covid trend of mostly millennials and Gen Zed-ers quitting their jobs, even with high unemployment numbers. It seems that these demographics are fed up with being treated badly (or so they perceive – they’re hardly knee-deep in shit at the Somme), the lack of flexibility offered by many jobs, and the fact that working gets in the way of shouting obscenities at Korean school boys whilst playing “Call of Duty” into the early hours.

Here in Aotearoa however, there’s an added level of complexity to this. Firstly, the research indicates that the desire to quit is particularly high in front-line workers – medical professionals especially. This could largely be described as a “push factor”. My wife is a Doctor, and her work is certainly worse under Covid. Not only does full PPE ruin her makeup, but she has to spend her time showing compassion and understanding to anti-vaxxers, whilst somehow resisting any desire to wrap a shovel around their ignorant, selfish, cowardly faces. It’s something I could never do, and that’s why she’s the Doctor and I’m Auckland’s fourth best recruitment consultant within my tiny niche. For front-line workers, in the most part, work has got tougher and pay increases do not reflect this.

However, it’s not just pissed off workers who are open to a move. The study also shows that in IT, 46 percent of workers are looking to leave. Now do you think this is because of worsening conditions? New rules around the application of deodorant? A cut in Games Workshop cash allowance? Nah, I’m not having it. People in IT are open to a move because they rightly believe that they can get more elsewhere. And it’s not just IT. Screw Covid, in such a candidate-short market as New Zealand in October 2021, almost all of us could earn more elsewhere. And because of the lack of candidates on the market, employees are getting almost constant calls from Recruiters attempting to tempt and unsettle them. Recruiters, don’t feel bad about doing this by the way. Our job is to unsettle the settled. According to the study paraphrased by The Herald:

“In 2020, roughly half of employees felt they had some decent job opportunities available to them. But by April 2021, this perception had increased by almost a third, to 66 per cent”

So what does this mean for employers and recruiters? Well, we could keep throwing money at people. This works, but only for a period of time. If you enter a bidding war for talent, at some point, your business becomes unprofitable. Yes, you can charge your clients and customers more, but at some point they bugger off also. So once we get through this current boom in salaries, we probably need to think about the other stuff. Maybe reinstate that Games Workshop allowance. Or if your management style revolves around being a dickhead, maybe be less of one. If you can’t manage that, be the same dickhead, but less often. Resist the urge to hit anyone with a shovel. Get a ping-pong table. Have Friday afternoon off. As we run out of money to bribe workers, this could be a fantastic opportunity to do the things that really matter for current and prospective staff. And as the world turns to shit in so many ways, wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the world of work in a race to the top for employee satisfaction?

Have a great weekend everyone. Don’t picnic just for the sake of it.