Spe­cial re­port: The jobs worth tak­ing a pay cut for

Rob Stock looks at the ‘feel-good’ fac­tors that aren’t mea­sured in dol­lars.

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

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.

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