New State of the Workplace research by workplace solutions provider OfficeMax reveals that company values are the new currency when it comes to employee retention in a post-covid economy.
NZBusiness spoke to OfficeMax Managing Director, Kevin Obern (pictured) about the research, and his takes on the future of the workplace for SMEs.
NZB: Tell us about the research. Why did you undertake it?
Kevin: Against a backdrop of labour shortages and ‘The Great Resignation’ we wanted to understand what workers are looking for and value, and how this translates into the physical spaces we work in.
Understanding the expectation of workers in a post-Covid economy and the relationship between workers’ personal values and the significant changes we’re seeing – and are yet to see – is fundamental to preparing for the workplace of the future. And that stands true whether you’re a SME or a large company.
NZB: New Zealand is slowly getting back to business as normal, but what has changed due to the pandemic?
Kevin: Great question. Firstly, our personal values, which have previously felt disconnected from our workplace of choice, are now mission critical for workers.
More than half of respondents (53 percent) say that what’s important to them in an employer has changed over the past couple of years. A high majority are focused on the societal impact of an organisation, with two thirds (67 percent) stating they will only work for a company that has a positive impact on society – a striking figure against a backdrop of labour shortages and “the great resignation”.
When on the job hunt, 80 percent of employees say that a company’s stated purpose or mission is important too.
Secondly, what we expect from our physical workplace has changed. The findings reflect the months that workers have just spent at home. Top-notch technology set ups, ergonomic workstations and improved cleanliness are deemed a priority, alongside quiet spaces for focus, they all made the top four.
NZB: What does this mean for small businesses, how can they compete?
Kevin: While salary is undeniably still important, particularly with the cost of living right now, ‘softer’ attributes are right up there. These areas don’t have to cost the earth.
For example, flexible working policies and honesty/integrity are the key features that Kiwis look for when assessing a new role, beyond salary. Honesty/integrity is particularly important for those aged 55+, being ranked the highest among this age group (63 percent) after salary and flexible working.
NZB: What are some practical things that SMEs can do to help attract and retain talent?
Kevin: The research tells us that a high majority are focused on the societal impact of an organisation, with two thirds stating they will only work for a company that has a positive impact on society.
Furthermore, the majority (80 percent) of employees think that a company’s stated purpose or mission is important when looking for a new job.
Here are a couple of potentially quick wins:
- Look at what products and consumables you use in your business – are there more sustainable alternatives or goods you can purchase from sustainable enterprises?
- Make sure you’ve shared your company’s strategy or purpose with staff – if you have one. Make it accessible, clear and inspiring.
- Does your company donate goods or services in kind? Many do. Talk about it with your team. Share the why – show your impact and celebrate it. Find ways to reflect this on your company website or social platforms too, as that’s an obvious place that potential hires will look to find out what your business is all about.
NZB. It’s one thing to say that culture and wellbeing is becoming more important, but does that really matter more than a well-paid job?
Kevin: Culture and wellbeing have become a driver for seeking new employment opportunities, particularly in younger people. Employers should be considering how their actions reflect their company purpose and how this impacts their employees.
Staff are becoming increasingly mindful of this; the data shows that 71 percent said they would leave a company that acts in a way that contradicts their values.
NZB: What is the connection between values and the future workplace?
Kevin: I think we are amidst a workplace transformation; values within the New Zealand workforce have changed over the past two years, ever since the pandemic abruptly reset work trends. Now more than ever, values are becoming pivotal to purpose-led work, and this impacts who they’re likely to seek out as employers. This means employers need to know what their potential future workforce is looking for to land top talent, and our research has helped us do exactly that.