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Gen Y traits noted in pulse-of-business survey

If you want to fast-forward to the workplace of tomorrow, just look at how the current crop of employees operate now.

Georgina Bond
Fri, 01 Jun 2012

Attitudes and expectations of Gen Y employees are noted in an annual survey of privately-owned businesses.

The ANZ Privately-Owned Business Barometer highlights traits of the “current crop” of young people coming into the job, and says it gives an indication of the way business will be done in the future.

“A wider range of jobs, a greater focus on career and personal achievements, and changes to employment law mean the current crop of young people are coming into a job with different expectations than what their employer started with,” the barometer notes.

“They are looking for long-term opportunities, expect to be treated more or less as equals, and the threat of being fired isn’t a stick to drive performance.

“The reality is, this is where the next round of employees will come from.

"Business owners need to accept this, look beyond the generalised theories around generations and remember what it was like when they first started work – what motivated them and how can this be applied to their new starters?”

The remarks are made in a section about staff retention issues, noting employers need to recognise people work in different ways and create workplace cultures people want to stay in.

ANZ managing director commercial Graham Turley says surprise about the different attitudes and values of the younger workers is typical of older generations.

“We were all ‘Gen Y’ once, and our parents were saying the same thing.

“The next round of business leaders will be Gen Y. So if we want to fast-forward, have a look at the way they do business.”

And for a lot of businesses, Gen Y aren’t just the employees, they are also the customers.

“In 20 years they’ll be the ones with the money, so we need to take note of these people.”

"Adaptation" is a theme of this year’s survey results, which paint a picture of business owners who have sharpened up their practices in response to the GFC and are now running leaner operations.

“The GFC really put Kiwi businesses through the mill. Most have come out the other side leaner, tighter and more focused,” Mr Turley says.

“They have adapted to the new normal, are ready for growth and their expectations are now more realistic and more sustainable long term.

“This is in start contrast to other places such as Europe, the US and Australia, and is critical to New Zealand surviving the current international economic turmoil.”

ANZ claims its Privately-Owned Business Barometer is one of the country’s most in-depth business surveys.

This year’s results are based on the responses of 1000 business owners – owners of businesses turning over more than $2 million a year (a response rate of 31%).

The bank also received responses from 3010 smaller business owners and 750 farmers.

ANZ uses the findings when it holds discussion groups around the country, which give businesses a chance to share their experiences and solutions to issues.

Finding skilled staff key issue

Although the barometer shows 88% of businesses expect positive growth in the next 12 months, skilled people are required.

Concern about finding skilled staff has grown considerably greater since 2008, the barometer reveals.

This year, 40% of businesses turning over more than $1 million said availability of staff is one of their top three concerns.

Mr Turley says the concern has changed this year, from concerns about hanging on to skilled staff during a crisis, to attracting them while poised for growth.

Staff retention was particularly prominent for tradespeople, whose staff are being lured offshore (particularly to Australia) where higher salaries are offered.

He says the bank has heard inspiring stories of business owners actively seeking to employ disadvantaged youth, ex-prisoners or new immigrants – with good outcomes reported.

These stories are more prevalent in the agricultural sector.

Other business owners expressed interest in helping these groups but are unwilling to take on the associated risk or challenges.

This is understandable in a cost-constrained environment where the business can’t afford for something to go wrong, the barometer report says.

Key points of the ANZ Privately-Owned Business Barometer 2012
- 88% of businesses expect positive growth in the next 12 months.
- 96% expect positive growth in the next three years.
- 39% of businesses turning over more than $1 million a year cited availability of staff as an area of concern.
- 64% of businesses turning over more than $1 million a year have used an adviser.
- 64% of businesses turning over less than $1 million have not used an adviser.
- 41% of businesses turning over less than $1 million a year said balancing family and business was an area of concern.
- 31% of non-agri businesses turning over more than $1 million a year are operating internationally, and a further 11% aspire to.
- 56% of business owners think succession is an issue, while only 9% think it’s a big issue.
- 47% of businesses have family working in the business.

Overall, businesses were positive about the future, although the GFC has tempered their profit expectations compared to before the crisis.

Managing costs, actively engaging customers and actively managing debtors and cashflow continue to be priorities for business owners.

Georgina Bond
Fri, 01 Jun 2012
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Gen Y traits noted in pulse-of-business survey