A new State of the Workplace study 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 views on the future of the SME workplace.
NZB: Tell us about research. Why did you undertake it?
Kevin: In a context of labor shortages and “the great resignation”, we wanted to understand what workers are looking for and value, and how this translates into the physical spaces in which we work.
Understanding the expectations of workers in a post-Covid economy and the relationship between workers’ personal values and the significant changes we are seeing – and have yet to see – is fundamental to preparing for the workplace of tomorrow. And this is true whether you are an SME or a large company.
NZB: New Zealand is slowly getting back to business, but what has changed because of the pandemic?
Kevin: Excellent question. First, our personal values, which previously felt disconnected from our chosen workplace, are now essential to the mission of workers.
More than half of respondents (53%) say what’s important to them about an employer has changed in the past two years. A strong majority focus on an organisation’s societal impact, with two-thirds (67%) saying they only work for a company that has a positive impact on society – a striking figure in the context of a labor shortage work and “the great resignation”.
When looking for a job, 80% of employees say a company’s stated purpose or mission is also important.
Second, what we expect from our physical workplace has changed. The results reflect the months the workers have just spent at home. State-of-the-art technological facilities, ergonomic workstations and improved cleanliness are considered a priority, alongside quiet spaces to concentrate, 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, especially with the cost of living right now, the “softer” attributes are up there. These areas don’t have to cost the earth.
For example, flexible working policies and honesty/integrity are the main characteristics Kiwis look for when evaluating a new role, beyond salary. Honesty/integrity is particularly important for people aged 55 and over, being ranked first in this age group (63%) after salary and flexible working.
NZB: What practical steps can SMEs take to attract and retain talent?
Kevin: Research tells us that a large majority focus on an organization’s societal impact, with two-thirds saying they will only work for a company that has a positive impact on society.
Additionally, the majority (80%) of employees think a company’s stated purpose or mission is important when looking for a new job.
Here are some potentially quick wins:
- Examine the products and consumables you use in your business. Are there alternatives or more durable goods that you can buy from sustainable companies?
- Make sure you have shared your business strategy or goal with staff, if you have one. Make it accessible, clear and inspiring.
- Does your company donate goods or services in kind? Many do. Discuss it with your team. Share the why – show your impact and celebrate it. Find ways to reflect this on your company’s website or social platforms, as this is an obvious place potential recruits will look to find out what your business is all about.
NZB. It’s one thing to say that culture and well-being are becoming increasingly important, but is it really more important than a well-paid job?
Kevin: Culture and well-being have become a search engine for new job opportunities, especially among young people. Employers should consider how their actions reflect their company’s purpose and how this affects their employees.
Staff are increasingly aware of this; data shows that 71% said they would leave a company that acts in a way contrary to their values.
NZB: How do values relate to the future workplace?
Kevin: I think we are in the midst of a workplace transformation; values within the New Zealand workforce have shifted over the past two years, since the pandemic abruptly reset work trends. Now more than ever, values are becoming central to goal-oriented work, and this is impacting who they are likely to seek out as employers. This means employers need to know what their potential future workforce is looking for to attract top talent, and our research has helped us do just that.