NZ employees say work/life balance now #1 priority

New research reveals what employees really want

NZ employees say work/life balance now #1 priority

For the last decade, salaries and benefits have been the number one driver for jobseekers in New Zealand. But now, thanks to the pandemic, a new factor has stolen the top spot.

According to Randstad’s 2021 Employer Brand Research, work/life balance has become the most important driver for Kiwis exploring the jobs market. It marks a significant change in priorities, highlighting how being able to work flexibly has been embraced by employees in the wake of last year’s lockdown.

Attractive salary and benefits fell to second place, followed by job security, a pleasant work atmosphere and good training. Speaking to HRD, Randstad New Zealand’s country manager Katherine Swan said jobseekers are now far more confident in asking for flexible working arrangements.

“Employers need to be aware of what attracts people to their organisation, and it's not just salary. What we’re really seeing is that work/life balance is becoming a more predominant player in terms of the most important drivers compared to previous years,” she said. “That’s not necessarily surprising that it has taken over salary and benefits because it was always trending that way.”

Read more: Talent shortages and fatigue: The biggest challenges facing HR

But like many other workplace trends, the pandemic has simply hit the accelerator pedal. Now employees have proved they can work from home and be just as productive, the data shows they’re reluctant to return to pre-pandemic ways of working. Swan said businesses that embrace the demand for flexibility and build it into their employer value proposition will have a far stronger chance of attracting new staff.

She said storytelling can be a vital tool to show potential new employees how existing staff members have been able to achieve a better work/life balance. Whether that is working from home in a hybrid structure, or staggering their hours to allow them to do the school run, it’s important to remember that true flexibility looks different for each employee.

“It’s about being really strong on what flexible working looks like within your organisation, what work/life balance looks like for individual employees, and how they've used the flexible working arrangements to achieve that,” she said.

“Even in the recruitment process, employers should be asking what a candidate is after in terms of flexibility and what they can offer as a company to make sure that it’s a good match.”

Read more: NZ restaurants turn out lights in protest over crippling skill shortage

Even though salary and benefits have dropped into second place, the talent short market in New Zealand means employers do need to remain competitive to nab the top talent. Swan said while supply and demand is tipped in the favour of jobseekers, employers will continue to experience salary pressure – particularly in industries that have traditionally relied on a migrant workforce.

Like Australia, New Zealand is experiencing an extremely tight talent market in almost every sector. From agriculture to hospitality, employers are crying out for more staff. Recruiters in New Zealand have even reported Australian firms poaching staff from across the Tasman, offering salaries they simply cannot compete with.

Aside from identifying the top drivers for jobseekers, Randstad’s research showed brand loyalty in New Zealand is high. Of those working or looking for new roles, 66% feel more loyal than a year ago and the number of those looking to change roles, or who have done so over the past 12 months, has also dropped.

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