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Over Half Of Workers Are More Interested In Balance And Belonging Than Climbing The Ladder

Workers prioritise equity / flexibility as progression takes a back seat

  • While most workers consider themselves ambitious, more than half (61%) say they’re not focused on career progression
  • Kiwis also continue to prioritise flexibility, with half (50%) considering quitting if they had to spend more time in the office
  • Although workers continue to demand that employers improve workplace equity, fewer would leave their jobs if their expectations were not met
  • Meanwhile, a third of workers (30%) continue to prioritise the “future proofing” of their skills, particularly considering the widespread adoption of technologies like artificial intelligence (AI)
  • A third of Kiwi talent also say that they would not accept a job if an organisation wasn’t making a proactive effort to improve its diversity and equity; with 3 out of 5 (59%) calling for gender pay equity, family leave for all employees (53%) and the desire to be part of a diverse workforce (49%).

New Zealand, February 15, 2024 – Randstad’s latest Workmonitor report found that talent are prioritising equity and flexibility, as career progression takes a back seat.

The research, which surveyed 27,000 workers in 34 markets across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas, including 1,000 New Zealanders, shows that while 42% of workers consider themselves to be ambitious, this doesn’t correlate to the traditional understanding of career aspirations. One third (30%) of workers are not focused on progression at all, with over half (55%) willing to stay in a role that they like, even if there’s no room to progress or develop.

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According to Richard Kennedy, Country Director of Randstad New Zealand, “This year’s research demonstrates that a one-size-fits-all talent policy is not sustainable. Today’s workforce know what they want and equitable, flexible workplaces are key to this. To them, ambition has become more than climbing the corporate ladder, and motivations are no longer driven by promotions. Talent are looking for like-minded partnerships where they can present their authentic selves and work with employers to improve equity in the workplace.

“At the same time, workers are proactively positioning themselves to stand out in an increasingly competitive market. Trends such as the impact of breakthrough technologies like Generative AI will be felt more keenly than ever as the rate of adoption accelerates. The emphasis isn’t just on understanding technology but leveraging it to solve real-world problems.”

Ambition vs motivation

Talent are also more likely to consider flexibility of working hours (82%) and mental health support (86%) as important - more so than career ambition (42%).

However, the research indicates that not wanting career progression does not mean employees have no interest in self-improvement, with over three quarters (77%) ranking training and development opportunities as important. Meanwhile, nearly one fifth (22%) would quit a job if they weren’t offered learning and development opportunities to future-proof their skills, such as management and leadership skillsets (31%) and training on AI (24%).

Kennedy says, “As workers redefine the meaning of ambition and retreat from the corporate grind, organisations will have their work cut out for them. Employers need to prepare for the talent and leadership gap that’s coming their way, and the solution is to recognise and adopt the new ABC of talent management to stay ahead. Only by demonstrating that they truly understand workers’ ambitions, their desire for balance and the need for connection, can organisations set themselves apart as employers of choice and drive the talent agenda of tomorrow.”

Randstad’s Workmonitor report comes at a time when unemployment is shown to be rising as New Zealand faces times of ‘sluggish’ growth ahead, with Stats NZ’s latest data placing the NZ unemployment figure at 4% (122,000), up 0.1% from 3.9% (118,000) the previous quarter.

Talent demand equitable workplaces

At the same time, workers continue to demand more equitable workplaces where they feel they belong and expect employers to act on that. Interestingly, while global data showed that the majority (52%) of workers think that the onus for improving equity lies with their employer, as opposed to themselves (18%), this expectation is markedly different with Kiwi workers with nearly half (45%) taking personal responsibility for enhancing equity in the office compared to those who said that employers are liable (21%).

A third of Kiwi talent also say that they would not accept a job if an organisation wasn’t making a proactive effort to improve its diversity and equity; with three out of five (59%) calling for gender pay equity, family leave for all employees (53%) and the desire to be part of a diverse workforce (49%).

Kennedy comments, “It is noteworthy that, while respondents still have clear demands on employers, they are slightly more cautious as they weighed in on these issues this year, and this could potentially be a reflection of greater economic pressures and fear of losing their job, emanating from the poly crises the world is experiencing.”

The return to office debate is set to continue into 2024

The research indicates that the push and pull between employers and workers on the return to the office is set to continue into 2024.

Over a third (37%) of global workers have made major changes in their lives, such as moving house or getting a pet based on the assumption that working from home is here to stay. The same amount (37%) would consider quitting their job if their employer asked them to spend more time in the office, with (39%) saying that working from home is non-negotiable to them.

This is in stark contrast to local data where hybrid working drove two-thirds (67%) of Kiwi workers to make significant changes to their lifestyles. Working from home is non-negotiable for five in 10 workers (51%), and the same proportion (50%) would consider leaving if they were asked to spend more time in the office.

Despite this, a third (33%) have been requested to come into the office more now than they were six months ago – showing that there is a mismatch between what talent want and what they are receiving.

“The future of work will continue to evolve with remote work being undeniable. However, data shows that, while flexibility continues to shape workers’ priorities, it has become a highly nuanced concept that doesn’t necessarily just mean working from home. The challenge lies in ensuring productivity and maintaining organisational culture in such a dispersed environment,” Kennedy says.


About the Randstad Workmonitor

The Randstad Workmonitor is now in its 21st year, exploring the views of working people in 34 markets across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas. It aims to provide an inside look at their attitudes, ambition, and expectations as the world of work continues to transform. The study is conducted online among respondents aged 18 - 67, working a minimum of 24 hours a week in a paid job (not self-employed). The minimum sample size is 500 interviews per market. The Dynata panel is used for sampling purposes.

This survey was conducted between October 23 and November 11, 2023 on 27,000 workers in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

about Randstad

Randstad is the world’s largest talent company and a partner of choice to clients. We are committed to providing equitable opportunities to people from all backgrounds and help them remain relevant in the rapidly changing world of work. We have a deep understanding of the labour market and help our clients to create the high-quality, diverse and agile workforces they need to succeed. Our 46,000 employees around the world make a positive impact on society by helping people to realise their true potential throughout their working life.

Randstad was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands. In 2022, in our 39 markets, we helped more than 2 million people find a job that feels good and advised over 230,000 clients on their talent needs. We generated revenue of €27.6 billion. Randstad N.V. is listed on the Euronext Amsterdam. For more information, see


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