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The ‘January Blues’ are here
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  • 20 Jan 2016

The ‘January Blues’ are here – provoking many New Zealanders to think about changing jobs.

The start-of-year blues are also a sign some New Zealand companies are neglecting a key element for success – their people.  While there are no research figures in New Zealand to measure the January blues, it’s a global phenomenon; latest news from the UK suggests a record 25 per cent (about 8 million) of the professional workforce are looking to change jobs this year.

New Year resolutions are often involved but 2016 seems to be a year when “must go to the gym” is being replaced by “find a new job”. Reasons vary, but always include the obvious transition back to work after holidays and the feeling the mountain climbed last year has to be scaled all over again.

We are hearing anecdotally from the New Zealand business scene that staff are now getting annoyed with companies which are not providing them with training or the new skills they feel they need to cope with a fast-changing and challenging business environment.

One of the biggest challenges of CEOs and managers everywhere is failure to attract and retain the best staff to ensure business success.

The plain truth is that, with new technology and rationalisation within business, the global economy has seen a huge move towards commoditisation of products… and people. Smart leaders have come to understand that their people are a key point of competitive differentiation when everyone is providing more-or-less the same products or services.

Staff turnover has been a problem for a few years now and we know training in new skills and career pathways are essential for attracting and retaining good people. But knowing it and doing something about it can be two different things.

Other consistent themes behind employee dissatisfaction and the urge to look for a new job include:

  • Lack of engagement – a US study by Gallup, released this month, points to a potential “engagement crisis”, with “serious and potentially lasting repercussions for the global economy”. It found only 32 per cent of US employees are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” That sense of disconnection leads to lower output and higher turnover.
  • Lack of investment in people – many companies are still indecisive about training, knowing people will leave if they are denied new skills yet nervous they will leave as soon as they have the new skills to do so.
  • Insufficient training and career paths – De-layering companies by stripping out levels of bureaucracy, improving efficiency and cutting costs, has had a side-effect – it removed many rungs on the corporate ladder (as many as 25 per cent of jobs between division head and CEO status, according to one report). Now employees globally say they are quitting because of lack of career opportunities – even more than remuneration.
  • Millennials – It’s not just retaining staff but attracting them in the first place. A Deloitte New Zealand survey published last year predicted Millennials (born between 1980-2000) will make up an estimated 75 per cent of the global work force by 2025. A Colmar Brunton survey published in April 2015 predicted Millennials will also make up almost 25 per cent of the New Zealand consumer market within five years.

Studies show the number of baby boomers retiring in the next five years is more than double the number of Gen X (born between the 60s and the 80s) and Millennials (Gen Y) available to fill the gaps. So, to get the cream of the crop, companies will have to provide what they are looking for.

Research in Australia in 2012 outlined more than 70 per cent [of millennials] would not apply for a role in a company if they did not believe in what it stood for – and they are turning the old job interview dynamic on its head, interviewing the company about things like training, upskilling and career advancement.

Investment in people is a clear business imperative in such highly commoditised times, and the cost is far less than the estimated average of $67,000 (Oxford Economics, UK) for recruiting and absorbing a new worker, including lost output, reduced productivity and the logistical costs.