Special report: The jobs worth taking a pay cut for
Rob Stock looks at the ‘feel-good’ factors that aren’t measured in dollars.
Big is Good.
There may be something in Mitre 10 Mega’s old TV catchphrase that jobseekers should consider when deciding whom to work for.
Data shows that for a profitable and sustainable salaried life, a worker’s best option may be to work for a large company, not one of New Zealand’s plethora of small businesses.
Recruitment Agency Randstad compiled a list of the top 10 things workers want from employers, and many of them, including the big three of salary, work-life balance and job security, are, on average, more easily found with larger employers.
But averages don’t tell the whole story. Big isn’t always good, and small can be beautiful for workers.
There are fastgrowing small businesses people really want to work for, and which tick many of Randstad’s top 10, even if they can’t compete on salary. Average salaries paid aren’t always in proportion to the companies paying them, but by and large,
smaller companies pay, on average, smaller salaries.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Small Business in New
Zealand factsheet for 2016 laid out the stark truth that though 97 per cent of all businesses were small, with fewer than 20 employees, they generated just 26 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Dr Stephen Blumenfeld, from Victoria University’s School of Management, said: ‘‘In general, it’s understood larger employers have a greater ability to pay more, and typically do, and offer greater benefits’’.
There’s more money in the bigger end of town, and bigger pay packets, especially for those driven to secure a spot on a senior executive team, or even make it to the boardroom.
The average wage in 2014 was $55,065 in companies with 20 or more employees, and $43,802 at smaller companies.
Fraser Hanson, general manager of Innocent Packaging, a fast-growing business providing food and drinks packaging that can be composted, said: ‘‘We’re not paying everyone here six figures, but it’s all at least the living
wage, if not more.
‘‘People have almost taken a little bit of a pay cut to work for us.’’
Randstad’s top 10 list shows why people might take a pay cut to work for a company like Innocent, which is offering an alternative to the plastic packaging that’s poisoning the oceans and polluting the food chain.
Number four on the list is a good work atmosphere. Number six is interesting work. Number eight is good corporate reputation. Number nine is a company that ‘‘gives back to society’’. Number 10 is a company that uses the latest technology.
Innocent ticks the box on all of those.
‘‘It’s pretty inspiring, really,’’ Hanson said of working at Innocent. ‘‘It doesn’t really feel like work. In a few years, we have gone from four people to 13.’’
It’s been an exciting ride. Everyone feels pride and a sense of mission. The experience they have gained has been immense.
Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, said for people seeking to rise through the ranks, the size of firm doesn’t matter as much as the opportunities it presents.
Larger companies may offer the possibility of rising higher, but smaller companies can offer some unique careerboosting options.
At the right small company, workers can gain skills, distinguish themselves, and earn an impressive job title.
‘‘I might choose a mediumsized company to quickly move up, and get the title of general manager, which would have taken me longer in a larger organisation,’’ Barnett said.
Everyone needs money, but everyone wants to be able to earn it without destroying their home lives, and in Randstad’s list work-life balance comes second only to salary.
Smaller businesses can be less pressurised to work for, and can have a real family-feel. That can suit some workers.
Craig Garner, chief executive of Business Mentors New Zealand, said: ‘‘In smaller businesses there’s a bit more of an intimate feel than in the corporate sector.’’
With understanding comes the ability to negotiate a flexible work life, but the visibility of working in a smaller company can be a double-edged sword.
Employees’ successes and failures are much more visible in small companies, but so are their work practices, the hours they work, and the days they take off.
The Wellness at Work report from Business NZ and Southern Cross Health Society found people at smaller companies were more likely to turn up to work when sick than people at larger businesses, where there were more colleagues to cover for them.
Larger companies were also more likely to invest in wellness at work programmes, Southern Cross’ chief people and strategy officer Vicki Caisley said, but Countdown workers are ‘‘foodies’’. Air New Zealand called its people ‘‘Air New Zealanders’’. Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns said, in a recent address: ‘‘I remain immensely proud of our port people, who provide the company with our greatest source of competitive advantage.’’ ‘‘Our people work around the clock, in all weather, and thrive on the challenges presented to them. They embrace our culture of continually striving to do things better and demonstrating an enduring ‘can-do’ attitude to doing business with our customers.’’ This year has seen the port launch a wellbeing programme, and it has made an effort to minimise accidents. ‘‘Port of Tauranga has 208 permanent staff, and our total recordable injury frequency rate improved to 5.5 per million hours worked, which is one of the lowest rates in our industry,’’ Cairns said. ‘‘We value human life above all else and expect that all of our port colleagues will go home to loved ones at the end of their shifts in the same condition that they entered the port gate.’’ that was changing.
The key to workplace wellness was not size, but company leadership.
‘‘If the leadership truly believes there is value to be derived from a wellbeing programme, they will find the resources to make it happen,’’ she said.
Despite low levels of unemployment, job security remains a big motivator for workers, at number three on the Randstad list. Working for a financially healthy company was number seven.
Small businesses have low survival rates.
Of businesses with one to five staff founded in 2010, just 57 per cent still existed in 2015. The survival rate for companies with 10 to 19 staff was just 59 per cent. But of companies with 100 or more workers launched in 2010, there was a survival rate of 80 per cent.
New Zealand’s households have internationally high levels of indebtedness, so security of income is especially critical to many people in the middle portion of their working lives, said Karen Peterson, country manager for Randstad.
‘‘We talk a lot about not job security, but employment security,’’ Peterson said.
These days, she said, workers focused less on how secure their current job was, but on making sure they had the skills to remain employable.
But along with larger companies’ higher pay packets comes the constant threat of corporate restructuring, something Garner said led many to leave large corporates feeling burnt out.
Earlier this year research from AMP showed a proportion of small and medium-sized businesses were dissuading workers from going into KiwiSaver, while AMP itself gave generous matching contributions in excess of the legal minimum of 3 per cent of salary.
But AMP is in the process of selling off its New Zealand businesses, following a massive A$3.45 billion (NZ$3.74b) deal announced earlier this month.
Even surviving a restructuring is gruelling, and reduces workers’ happiness, and their sense of the security of their relationship with their employer.
Kiwis have never been world leaders in safety at work.
Getting home safe and well at the end of a day’s work does not feature in the Randstad top 10.
But if the salary is the reward, and being injured, poisoned, or psychologically harmed is the risk of working, then larger businesses offer the best risk/ reward ratio.
‘‘Evidence suggests that in any particular industry, SMEs are less safe than larger businesses,’’ according to Worksafe.
A 2009 report from the The National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee made this blunt assessment: ‘‘Those working in small businesses in New Zealand and overseas are generally more frequently exposed to hazardous situations and suffer more workrelated injuries and illnesses than those working in larger businesses’’.
In general, it said, small businesses were characterised as suffering from a lack of money, limited access to expert advice, and lack of management acumen.
Vaughan Lewis has worked on Port of Tauranga’s wharves for 31 years. Port of Tauranga chief executive Mark Cairns refers to employees of the company as ’port people’.
The key for workplace wellness is not size, but company leadership, Vicki Caisley, head of people at health insurer Southern Cross says.
AMP is in the big end of town, but working for big corporates brings the risk of restructures, mergers, and sales.
Innocent Packaging, a fast-growing business providing food and drinks packaging that can be composted, pays its staff at least the living wage.
For people seeking to rise through the ranks, the size of firm doesn’t matter as much as the opportunities it presents, says Auckland Chamber of Commerce boss Michael Barnett.