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last updated 06/11/2021

Increased job dissatisfaction levels point to change

last updated 06/11/2021

14 October 2021 – New research from AUT confirms international trends that many people across a range of different roles are considering changing their job. Will buying a business appeal?

Internationally, and especially within the United States, there is a lot of talk about the ‘great resignation’ – the informal name for the widespread trend of a significant number of workers leaving their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here in New Zealand, a nationwide study led by AUT Business School Professor Jarrod Haar shows that, since the study began last year, more and more Kiwi workers are thinking about either changing or throwing in the job towel (defined as “turnover intentions”).

The AUT Wellbeing@Work iterative survey involved just over 1,000 participants in three separate time periods – May 2020, December 2020 and April 2021. While each cohort is distinct, the three groups comprised participants of similar age range (approx. 39 years on average), gender (approx. 50/50, male/female split), and employment sector (approx. 70% private sector).

Over the course of the survey, the number of employees with no thoughts of leaving their jobs halved, from 19.1% in May 2020 down to 9.2% the following April 2021 – a 52% reduction. At the other end of the scale, those most likely to leave (‘high turnover thoughts’) increased from 34.7% in May 2020 to 46.4% in April 2021 – a 34% increase.


May 2020

Dec 2020 Apr 2021
No Turnover thoughts  19.1% 10.7% 9.2%
Low Turnover thoughts  20.1% 27.3% 18.4%
Moderate Turnover thoughts  26.1% 22.4% 26.0%
High Turnover thoughts  34.7% 39.7% 46.4%
  100% 100% 100%


The key drivers

Professor Haar says there are two key drivers of turnover intentions: 

1) how much an employee likes their job (including pay); and 

2) what other employment opportunities exist for them. ‘For example, someone might hate their job but has low or no turnover intentions due to a lack of other roles,’ says AUT.

The findings show that job satisfaction did not change over the time periods. On average, employees in April 2021 liked their jobs as much as they did in May 2020. Professor Haar says that suggests New Zealand’s workforce is generally satisfied.

But the perceptions around job opportunities have changed. In 2020, roughly half of employees felt they had some decent job opportunities available to them. But by April 2021, this perception had increased by almost a third, to 66 per cent.

‘The findings suggest the great resignation may well be happening in New Zealand,’ says Professor Haar. ‘Perhaps differently from overseas, the biggest driver here is the lure of new job opportunities – more pay, more personal development, or more “making a difference”.’

Talking to the New Zealand Herald, he pointed out that Delta is just the latest development in a Covid-19 disruption that, contrary to expectations, has made workers more mobile.

‘Someone who’s a chef might be worried about Delta's effect on their sector, and whether they could get a job at another restaurant. But they could still be thinking about leaving – just for another industry rather than another hospitality role.’

Why franchises may appeal

While people with an employee mentality might just look for another job under such circumstances, workplace dissatisfaction could lead to an increase of people looking at going into business for themselves, suggests Simon Lord of Franchise New Zealand.

‘Changing industries can be difficult, but franchises offer the training, systems and support that people need to start a whole new career in a business of their own. Taking Professor Haar’s chef example, for instance, we talked to a couple just a few months ago who had swapped the long hours and stress of the kitchen for a more lucrative and relaxed lifestyle as franchisees with V.I.P. Home Services. 

‘Of course, owning your own business is never easy, but if you choose carefully then franchising offers you the ability to build a new future doing what you want, where you want, when you want ­– and to choose the people you work with. If you’ve already decided you’re not happy where you are, those four factors can be very attractive. For franchisors, it means there are people out there looking for change who could be potential franchisees.'

See also Auckland exodus to boost regional business 

Who is most likely to be looking?

Focusing on the high turnover group in April 2021, the AUT study found:

  • Overall, managers had similar odds of leaving to employees.
  • There are no gender differences or sector differences.
  • There are no differences by ethnicity (eg, Māori).

Looking at specific profession groups, there are significant differences in who is more likely to consider leaving:

  1. Labourer/factory worker 64%
  2. Health/Support services 55%
  3. Sales/customer service/retail 52%
  4. Tourism/Hospitality 51%
  5. Trades 47%
  6. Information technology 46%
  7. Other 45%
  8. Clerical or administrative 41%
  9. Teaching/Education 39%
  10. Semi-skilled worker 37%
  11. Other professional 33%

AUT says the findings suggest that low skilled workers are the most likely to leave – possibly motivated by the draw of better pay and work conditions. The findings in the tourism/hospitality sector may well reflect the number of employees seeking to leave their profession due to the industry strains from Covid-19. Health workers, tradies and information technology workers are more likely to stay in the same profession but are motivated to secure a new role with new people, greater opportunities, and higher pay.

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