Overseas trends suggest that in the new pandemic world people are chucking in their jobs to find new opportunities.

The phrase “Great Resignation” was coined in the US and means where  much of the working population is looking for new jobs or even careers.

If recent surveys are anything to go by, then New Zealand may be following the “Great Resignation” trail.

A survey of employees by Australian HR software company, Employment Hero, reports that 48% of workers are planning to change jobs in 2022.

An Auckland University of Technology (AUT) study backs this up. It found that out of the 1000 participants, the proportion of employees not considering leaving their jobs had halved, from 19.1% in May 2020 to 9.2%in April 2021.

The survey category of people with “high turnover intentions”, that is those who were keen to change jobs, increased by about 10 percentage points from 34.7% to 46.4%.

The AUT study noted that the group with the highest intentions to quit their job were under-30-year-olds at 48%, followed by the 31 to 50-year-old group at 42%, then 20% for the group above 50 years old.

“Many people are suffering from burn out with the uncertainty of our world as they try to balance their work and personal lives with the threat of COVID hanging over them. With all the change and instability many people are now looking to move into a less stressful environment.”

Why are they moving on?

Spring boarded by the pandemic, the phenomenon is believed to have been primarily triggered by the realisation that people can have a different life and spend more time with family when they work remotely, and that some may now feel less connection to their workplaces. Also, the work skill shortage New Zealand is experiencing is giving employees (or even bosses) more choices to move on.

The world has gone through some dramatic changes in the last couple of years and it has made us more reflective about our future. Also, the stress of our new world has created greater anxiety about life generally, resulting in people taking a step back and looking at their priorities.

Another outcome of the pandemic is the intense need for workers to find a work-life balance. The flexibility of working from home (and a hybrid of home and office) has given many the taste of what work can be like outside the office.

Employees are willing to make sacrifices to achieve a better work-life balance. A US survey by career site Joblist shows that over 30% of workers are willing to give up part of their pay for a better work-life balance, with parents prepared to take a 5% pay cut.

After the experience of remote working some employees may seek out organisations that offer greater flexibility than was previously available. Even those that offer purely working from home.

Diversity is also becoming more of a priority to potential employees with some companies assessing candidates on their attitude and core competencies, rather than their skills and experience.

As our borders open, young people in their 20s are expected to migrate for other opportunities in the wider world. Again, changing work dynamics are adding to a potential “Great Resignation”.

Many people are suffering from burn out with the uncertainty of our world as they try to balance their work and personal lives with the threat of COVID hanging over them. With all the change and instability many people are now looking to move into   a less stressful environment.

The pandemic has found a large amount of people’s jobs disappear or reduce, such as those in hospitality and event management. In response, they may have had to reinvent themselves and seek new jobs or even start their own businesses (see ‘I Want to Be My Own Boss’).

However, with greater opportunities – and even greater rewards – opening up with skilled worker shortages, money and career progression remain very important. But that can be seen as another reason for the potential “Great Resignation”.

The ‘Great Resignation’ is not necessarily a negative

The “Great Resignation” could be a positive for employers and be seen as the either the “Great Recruitment” or “Great Retention”.

Businesses have had to adapt to the new world and bring their employees along for the bumpy ride. We are seeing hybrid businesses being established, giving staff the flexibility to work from home or from the office.

With worker shortages, especially for skilled workers, some businesses are more competitive, not only offering above-market salaries but also “fringe benefits” such as extra days off, parking perks, etc.

The pandemic has made employers more aware of the necessity of the wellbeing of their employees and this is now ingrained in many business cultures.

The “Great Resignation” may see business owners more focused on retaining and motivating their top talent. Employees may be contemplating greener pastures and it's up to business owners to make the grass greener to better suit their existing employees, as well as attracting new talent.

I want to be my own boss

There has been record growth in the number of deals and the amount of capital invested in 2021, according to the latest Startup Investment report from PwC and the Angel Association (AANZ).

In the first half of 2021 there were 66 recorded deals and nearly $60m invested by early-stage investors in the ecosystem. Compared with the same period in 2020, this represents a 60% increase in deal volume and an 80% increase in dollars invested.

So why are we seeing this growing trend?

Well, the first and most obvious factor is people’s desire to be their own boss. Our world has changed dramatically, and many people see this as an opportunity to start something new and to be more in control, in what seems to be an out-of-control universe.

The flexibility of remote working during lockdown has given people the taste and idea of what having a more flexible working life looks like.

Our new world has made us more reflective (the lockdowns certainly gave us time to contemplate our navels!). People now feel they can pursue a career that they are passionate about rather than being dictated by a corporation. It makes them motivated to run their own businesses that they are feel personally connected to.

Likewise, the pandemic has made us more community-spirited and has led to people seeking to have a business that can help others. A US survey by Digital.com showed that 52% of respondents want to quit to start a business so they could fill a need in their community.

Some people have begun start-ups simply because they were forced to make changes as their jobs had been made redundant by the pandemic.

But many also saw the pandemic, not just as a challenge but also as an opportunity. With the growth in digital commerce many saw how they could run businesses with a smaller economic footprint and, at the same time, pursue opportunistic businesses created by the limitations of the pandemic. For example, research by NZ Post reports that online shopping in New Zealand increased about 25%in 2020 – with Kiwis spending more than $5.8 billion and online shopping, spiking at a 105%increase during Covid-19 alert level 3 in 2020.

You’re never too old to become your own boss.

There seems to be a world-wide increase in people aged 50 and over setting up their own businesses.

In the U.S, the highest rate of business start-up activity is among those aged 55-64.  In the UK, “third age” entrepreneurs are responsible for over a quarter of new start-ups.

There is  currently next to none New Zealand data concerning the age of those establishing start-ups but it’s likely to reflect overseas trends.

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