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The Great Resignation – A prediction for 2022?

The Great Resignation – the globally observed phenomenon of labour force exits due to greater opportunities, increased workloads, stress, and caring demands in the ongoing COVID environment. The movement started overseas during the pandemic and whilst it may not be occurring for the same reasons, we are now starting to see trends of it here in NZ with more and more resignations and shortages being reported industry wide.

So why are so many New Zealanders making job changes in 2022 and what can employers do to retain employees or entice staff to join their business?


Why are employees leaving jobs?

The “why” for the great resignation in New Zealand is not just as simple as employees being unsatisfied with their work. Socioeconomic factors come into play.

In a 2021 AUT study Professor Jarrod Haar identified two key drivers behind employees seeking new opportunities:

  1. How much an employee likes their job (including pay), and
  2. Other employment opportunities that may exist for them.


The pandemic especially has brought these drivers front of mind, with many employees beginning to re-evaluate how their work fits with their lifestyle and reflect on their organisation as a whole.  However, just because an employee dislikes their job does not automatically mean they have an intention to leave – with Professor Haar commenting that if there are no job opportunities available then many will stay put in jobs they dislike.

Rather, employees are walking because it is their overall satisfaction combined with the enticement of other opportunities and the ability for these opportunities to mean more pay, personal development or more “making a difference” and meaningful.

For example, on average employees in April 2021 liked their jobs as much as they did in May 2020 however, during this same period, employees’ perception of job opportunities available to them had increased from around 50% to 66%.

Why this perception is increasing is likely due to the fact that these opportunities have become plentiful since New Zealand started facing labour and talent shortages, which is attributed to the lack of traveller and migrant workers. The shortage has resulted in a talent war, with employees being able to shop around the multitude of employment opportunities available and keep organisations on their toes by using the shortage as a bargaining point. This has also meant that employers are having to be more aggressive with recruitment and value points.

Although there are no official statistics yet to mark the Great Resignation trend for 2022, news articles documenting these trends are already emerging. A recent HRNZ survey also predicted that workforce recruitment and retention will be a standout challenge for HR and businesses this year.


How should employers respond?

It looks like the Great Resignation and increased talent and labour shortage are part of the many obstacles that New Zealand employers will be facing this year*

*(other obstacles are likely to include economic pressures brought on by an increased CPI/LCI, navigating further COVID variants and the impact it’ll have in the workplace, new employment legislation and more).

However, it is clear that employee priorities during and after the lockdown have shifted, with remuneration and bonuses being top, and flexible working arrangements following.

To navigate this obstacle, employers should simply engage and talk to their employees to understand individual needs. This may mean considering an employee’s development goals and taking active steps to achieve this, reviewing an employee’s pay, encouraging employees to take “mental health days”, or just gauging general satisfaction.

It is important to note, however, that it is not always as simple as having these conversations and implementing small changes. This should be part of a wider picture to focus on employee priorities. It may be that a complete workplace culture reset is needed. However, to do this you should identify underlying issues or tensions and focus on getting employees to open up.

Unions may begin to put pressures on businesses to be more proactive and provide wider benefits for those covered by collective agreements, making some roles and/or industries more desirable.

Some workplaces may experience bigger tensions between people which means engaging in group facilitation or mediation may be required to really address collective needs.

To summarise, the best thing employers can do is anticipate these trends early, which may mean beginning to action and address employees’ needs.


How can we help?

Sometimes these things require expert advice. Three60 provide support to organisations when it comes to navigating relationships and collective bargaining strategies with unions

We also have a team of dispute resolution and conflict coaching experts who can support you in avoiding these situations in future.

Get in touch with Three60 to see how we can best support you and help achieve the outcome of retaining employees and keeping the organisation healthy and thriving.


This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.

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