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Workforce Research: Key Trends and Insights

Here at OCG we pride ourselves on being thought leaders; recognising emerging trends in the workplace and tracking them as they develop. We regularly survey the market, drawing key insights from our clients and candidates and producing whitepapers to clearly showcase our findings.

Previous topics have included:

      • The Impact of the Ageing Workforce
      • Talent Management - Four Generations in One Workplace
      • Flexible Work Design
      • The Rise of the Contingent Workforce
      • Organisational Culture – Bigger Than the Bottom Line

Below you’ll find a short introduction to each subject and a link to each whitepaper. If it’s not publicly available, feel free to request a copy with the link provided.

The Ageing Workforce – An Untapped Resource

As more baby boomers enter retirement age and the ratio between the numbers of workers to the numbers of retirees’ rockets, why should New Zealand businesses be concerned?

There has been much said, in recent years, on New Zealand’s ageing population and workforce participation rates, but while 56% of employers believe that an ageing workforce will have a large or very large impact on their own organisation, they have been largely content to leave the issue to government policy makers.

      • In 40 years’ time, a quarter of our population will be over 65.
      • But a surprising 44% of our survey respondents did not feel that this demographic shift would have any meaningful impact on their business.
      • There is also a real benefit to be gained from employing older workers. Most (59%) employers note that there is a shortage of highly experienced workers in their industry. By the same token, 48% agree that older workers are a relatively untapped resource in their industry.
      • Why aren’t firms hiring more older workers? The key reason according to employers is simply that older workers do not apply for the roles advertised.
      • Despite the productivity benefits employers note that older workers bring, and the diversity advantage available, few organisations have structures in place to reap these dividends - just 18% of employers have specific planning strategies around ageing workforce participation.

Our data also indicates that age related discrimination is a problem in New Zealand - 46% of employers and 32% of employees believe age discrimination is a problem in their industry.

With four generations now within the workforce, this issue will become more important. Some of the key ideas that have emerged from this research is the notion of multigenerational diversity in the workforce, as well as New Zealand’s ageing workforce, and how these are being approached by employers. Though our Talent Management research made it evident that many employers are not approaching the multigenerational workforce as efficiently as they could be, our research on organisational culture makes it clear that generational differences don’t impact every aspect of working life.

Talent Management – Four Generations in One Workplace

What our research into talent management highlighted was that there is a disconnect between employers and employees when it comes to priorities. With four generations now firmly entrenched in the workplace, much has been said about the need for new management strategies that cater to a multigenerational workforce.

      • We know that staff from all generations seek a flexible work environment, however, employers also need to ensure productivity is not compromised. Although three in four (76%) agree that flexible working arrangements provide a positive return on investment, employers are divided as to the impact of flexibility on productivity. One in three agree that there is an inverse relationship between flexible work arrangements and productivity, whereas 39% disagree with this.
      • It is clear that engagement and management strategies that worked for say, the Traditionalist generation (3% of the workforce and soon to become insignificant), will have to be rewritten when it comes to Millennials.
      • While Gen X is currently the largest generation of active workers, the Millennial generation, or Generation Y, is the largest to emerge since the Baby Boomers, and as this group quickly grows as a proportion of the workforce, employers will need to make major adjustments in their strategies.
      • Our research found that just over half (52%) of employers do not have any generation specific talent management strategies in place. Only 3% of organisations surveyed have strategies in place for all four generations
      • Furthermore, many of the employers who are attempting to put these strategies in place don’t seem to share the same ideas as their employees. In the case of Millennial employees, employers focus on development, regular goal setting and continuous review of talent to engage this generation in the workplace.
      • But it’s not just millennials that employers struggle with. Our research shows that employers are also guilty of underestimating the importance of training to keep up with the times for Gen-Xers.

Flexible working is here to stay: the desire for flexible work conditions spans all four generations and uptake of new technology is increasingly facilitating the trend towards flexible working arrangements. But although 76% of employers agree that flexible working arrangements provide a positive return on investment, one in three believe there is an inverse relationship between flexible work arrangements and productivity.

For more Talent Management insights, including effective employee motivators and techniques to get the most out of your workforce, feel free to download a copy of our whitepaper; Talent Management: The Next Wave.

Flexible Work Design - A Strategic Imperative

One of the key points emerging from our talent management research was the notion of workplace flexibility and flexible working.

All indicators point to the fact that flexible work design is here to stay. The correlation between flexible work and employee engagement cannot be ignored and organisations who don’t respond to the changing needs of their employees in this respect, will likely find themselves on the back foot when it comes to attracting and retaining key talent.

      • As seen in our previous research, millennials are leading the charge for workplace flexibility, with 89% of those surveyed indicating that they would prefer to work when and where they choose, rather than in a corporate nine-to-five job.
      • Research from the Chartered Management Institute was also in line with this, with 59% of managers predicting the traditional 9-5 to disappear before 2020.
      • However, though many employers feel that this trend is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean that they think it’s positive. 30% of the employers we surveyed felt that there was an inverse relationship between flexible working arrangements and productivity.
      • Such a high number is especially surprising, given how common flexible working arrangements are and how much more common they will become as technology develops and globalisation continues.
      • While many workers have for some time been able to vary their start and finish times within a 40-hour framework, it is clear that the introduction of the Amendment to the Employment Relations Act takes this concept to the next level, by introducing the obligation on organisations to have a formal process and the right to employees to that process.

With the vast majority of those surveyed reporting that flexible working arrangements generate a positive return on investment, why is it that so many question productivity? Flexible work is already highly sought after by employees and this is only trending to increase. If employers who are opposed to flexible working do not find a way to make it work for them, they may find it difficult to recruit top talent in the future.

You can read more insights on flexible working here, in our Flexible Work Design – A Strategic Initiative whitepaper.

The Rise of the Contingent Workforce

Following on from flexibility, our research on contingent workers produced some surprising results. Firstly, the sheer number of them that we were able to survey. Out of all of the employees we surveyed, 41% defined themselves as a contingent worker. Although we recognise that we likely had a disproportionate number of contingent workers responding, the last such survey of New Zealand employees stated that contingent workers made up 8% of the workforce. With such a disparity between the numbers, the true answer likely lies somewhere in the middle; still a significant increase on the 8% figure from 2013.

When it came to the management of contingent workers, employers tended to score fairly poorly.

Most responses indicate that Line Managers are seen as responsible for both hiring (49.1%) contingent workers as well as tracking their cost (63.9%). Due to the nature of the Line Manager role, and their relationship with employees, having them hire, manage and track the cost of contingent workers leaves the business with little high level oversight, which can lead to disorganisation and poor management.

For our advice on how to best integrate and manage contingent workers, as well as their key motivators and barriers, feel free to request a copy of our whitepaper, The Rise of the Contingent Workforce, here.

Organisational Culture – Bigger Than the Bottom Line

One insight from our Talent Management research was that the importance of "the why” is severely underestimated by employers across. Research from our soon to be released whitepaper, Organisational Culture: Bigger Than the Bottom Line, follows on from this, showing that a strong organisational culture is a crucial concern for employees.

      • In this survey, 98% of respondents stated that it was important for their workplace to provide a greater purpose than just making money; 7% more than in our Talent Management research.
      • With such a remarkable number of people wanting more from their work than just a pay cheque, it’s concerning to see that 43% of respondents believe that their organisation’s culture could be improved.
      • With culture being listed as high up the priority list for employees considering a new role, not having a strong organisational culture can put you at risk of losing your high performers. According to our respondents, it can also impact business performance.
      • 90% of people surveyed stated that they believed culture is very important to business strategy delivery.
      • With 94% believing that an improvement in culture would bring improvements to;
            • Staff Engagement
            • Customer Satisfaction
            • Staff Retention
            • Innovation
            • Productivity
            • Revenue
When it comes to improving culture, although most stated that culture was the responsibility of everyone within an organisation, change starts at the top. Lack of buy-in from leadership, culture being a low priority and no shared vision for the culture being in place, were all listed as key issues when it comes to culture development. This sentiment was also reflected in how culture can be improved, with role model leaders, a good working environment and effective processes to drive culture-supportive behaviour cited as the most important activities to impact culture change.

If you’d like to know more about what the most effective actions are to drive culture change, and just how significant an impact culture can have on business performance, get in touch to request a copy of our soon to be released whitepaper; Organisational Culture: Bigger than the Bottom Line.

In Closing

We’ll continue to monitor these trends, conducting more research and sharing our insights with you. If you’d like a copy of any of the whitepapers discussed above, or you’d like to discuss any issues you may be facing due to these trends, feel free to get in touch.

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