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Friday, January 27, 2023

Will ‘The Great Resignation’ Catch On In NZ? Why One Industry Expert Thinks It’s ‘The Great Reassessment’ Instead

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Over the past few months, “The Great Resignation” has hit the headlines overseas, with millions of Americans quitting their jobs and looking for greener pastures after two years of treading water in their careers. Leilani Abels, a top Australasian PR director, thinks we may see something similar down under and that employers need to start creating better, more flexible jobs to keep and retain the best talent. She talks to Capsule about creating Thrive’s ‘job of the future’ and why it was important to combine travel and change with stability.

In the first year of the pandemic, there was a real ‘hold, and take cover’ approach taken by many as they sought to keep their jobs in the ginormous wave of redundancies that flooded every country. In the second year of the pandemic, there was a sense of ‘well, don’t rock the boat.’ But now, in this third year? People are ready for a change. And clever employers are aware they need to offer more than the traditional 9-to-5, as an ever-widening talent pool is asking themselves: What’s next?

Leilani Abels

“There’s been ‘The Great Resignation’ overseas but there’s certainly been this shift of thinking that maybe it’s actually ‘The Great Reassessment’,” says Leilani Abels, Managing Director of Thrive PR + Communications. “And if people are reassessing, how do we create an environment and job roles that play to what people have been missing out on, and what people are going to be demanding, and yearning for, moving forward.”

‘If people are reassessing, how do we create an environment and job roles that play to what people have been missing out on?’

With that end in mind, Thrive PR + Communications launched the ‘Public relations job of the future’ call-out, where two different PR roles have been created to offer the excitement and change of scenery that comes with an OE – but with the stability of a long-term prospect. Basically, the jobs involve being able to work across Australia at Thrive’s various offices – Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth – and then being able to return to Aotearoa with the role. 

Leilani founded Thrive PR + Communications in her mid-twenties and even though she’d only worked for a handful of agencies at the time, she’d already experienced enough to know what she didn’t want to bring to her own corporate culture. “I’ve always had a guiding principle of a ‘culture of wellness’, and what does that look like for all of our team? Because it’s different things for different people,” she says. “Culture is everything at the best of times, but particularly when you’re working through a pandemic, it’s what unites people and helps people get through.”

The Great Resignation = Wanting More Freedom

The motto of the company has always been ‘limited by nothing,’ and that’s a saying that really gets its legs tested during a pandemic, when all the ways of getting the job done are in a state of constant flux. But Leilani says that employers have a responsibility to lean into that new sense of flexibility if they want to keep their staff happy.

“There is an increased desire for freedom, for people defining and re-shaping what their work day looks like. As an employer, you need to think creatively around that”

“There is an increased desire for freedom, for people defining and re-shaping what their work day looks like. As an employer, you need to think creatively around that, to be able to retain team members, grow team members and also attract the best team members, when you don’t have borders open and you can’t recruit in the way that you would normally do.”

“I’ve always said to my team that it’s not about balance; if you can define your own work/life integration, what an amazing opportunity! And the communications industry is thriving off the back of the pandemic, so for us in our business, there’s a real opportunity to shape what that work/life integration looks like. And that’s where the ‘jobs of the future’ came into play.”

With five locations across Australia, one in Auckland and the potential for a larger footprint in Aotearoa, it seemed like a no-brainer for Leilani that these new jobs could have the opportunity to work across all of these workplaces. They first launched the job search here, before opening it up in Australia, and the response has been phenomenal, she says. “The general sentiment is: ‘I want to grow, I want to keep nurturing my career, but I want new experiences as well. So what does that look like?’”

Change + Stability

It’s helped that their big clients like Airbnb and GoPro came on board to help sweeten the deal with some serious perks, but it’s the flexibility that is the key selling point across the board. “Initiatives like this attract the best talent – and they retain the best talent,” Leilani says simply. For a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, any attempt to do an OE has been scuppered by international travel being so difficult for so long. This way, they can get the best of both worlds – particularly once the Trans-Tasman bubble opens.

With people now looking for different career opportunities, she says it’s up to business owners to focus on creating them, and to create a happy workplace. Because if there’s one thing that two years of working remotely has taught us, it’s that life is too short to be stuck in a job that makes you miserable.

“As we’ve seen in the pandemic, there’s no delineation between whether you’re happy at work or happy at home now. Your wellbeing at work and your wellbeing at home are now one and the same,” she says. “If our team are happy, and engaged, then they’re also delivering their best work. And my job is to provide a platform, and an environment, for them to achieve that.”

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