Conducted by Clarian HR in association with Massey University, the survey results show 50 per cent of employees list having “fun and working with great people” as the most important factor in their employment, followed by great pay, benefits and career development.
Employers, meanwhile, believe their product and brand reputation (71 per cent) is the most important factor in attracting talent, followed by being a stable, market leader (68 per cent). Pay was ranked the second lowest in importance.
Managing director of Clarian HR, Clare Parkes, says there is a disconnect between employers and employees, along with a large amount of uncertainty in all levels of the market.
“We’re seeing uncertainty in the economy, business strategies and operational tactics, and in employees’ states of mind relating to their choices for the future,” she says. “Whilst organisations have heavily invested in ‘right-sizing’ their headcount to accommodate the changing market forces, this leaves employees lacking clarity on what their future options are since the concept of career is no longer available to them in the traditional linear manner.”
This is reflected in the finding that 20 per cent of employees surveyed said they were actively looking for alternative employment, and a further one-third are unhappy in their roles and are considering looking. The is a “wake-up call” for some workplaces, says Associate Professor Jane Parker from Massey University’s School of Management.
“This reflects disengagement by some employees, and also how online recruitment options have facilitated job searches in recent times,” she says. “But with culture fit being seen by employers and managers as the most important criteria for applicant success, organisations also need to use recruitment channels that encourage this kind of matching.”
When asked about their personal level of “engagement”, 21 per cent of employees said they were not engaged, and 59 per cent were ambivalent or somewhat engaged. Over a third (38 per cent) want better communication, 37 per cent want improved development and career planning, 36 per cent want better pay, and 37 per cent want closer attention paid to office politics and internal conflict.
Employees also noted a lack of confidence in the leadership team (29 per cent), feeling they could not communicate openly and honestly without fear of retaliation (26 per cent), and feeling the company did not care about their personal wellbeing (25 per cent).
“This all suggests companies that don’t address staff engagement effectively could face losing key staff once the economy picks up,” says Ms Parkes.
Dr Parker agrees, saying the Massey research team was struck by the number of employees calling for greater two-way communication in the workplace.
“This links to a perceived need for greater investment by firms in people management capabilities – employees highlighted ineffective leadership, internal conflict, excess workload, unclear expectations and lack of feedback as perceived barriers to better performance,” she says.
“The results also flag up the need for employees to think about ways of improving their employability in a context of uncertainty – for example, by networking widely in their organisation, seeking greater levels of feedback, and taking up development opportunities.”
Ms Parkes says the findings pose a challenge for up-and-coming graduates and young professionals because they must be able to demonstrate “fit”, navigation of an organisation, build strong relationships with key stakeholders, and be able to translate their knowledge into key outcomes before they will be seen as a “safe bet” for many organisations.
“There is also an issue with businesses focusing on leadership, which is a long term view, as opposed to the more immediate concerns of frontline staff in this economic environment,” Ms Parkes says.
“But it’s not all bad news. Overall, the survey results of 2012 show the changing nature of the employee. No longer are they willing to let things happen to them – they want to be part of creating their own future, but they are challenged with understanding what their options are.”
Other key findings include:
- Ineffective leadership is the most highly rated barrier to better performance by employees (56 per cent strongly agree) compared with just 25 per cent of employers. The biggest barrier, in the employer’s view, is excess workload.
- Over a third (36 per cent) of employees refer to lack of motivation as a barrier to performance.
- Half of employers are looking to cut costs and a third are focusing on headcount.
- Thirty per cent of employers are looking at ways to increase productivity.
- Nearly one quarter (24 per cent) of employers expect significant change in leadership development, management capability and employee engagement.
The Great New Zealand Employment Survey is the only employment survey in New Zealand that interviews both the employer and employee. The 2012 survey asked 612 employers, managers, and workers about the pains and joys of employment.
The Massey University researchers who assisted with the analysis of the survey results were Professor James Arrowsmith, Associate Professor Jane Parker, Dr Daryl Forsyth, Dr Bevan Catley, and Dr David Tappin. All are from the School of Management.