It’s the start of a new decade and the perfect time to look at what’s going to be happening in workplaces of the future.
We hear a lot about technological advances, artificial intelligence, digital disruption, flexible working and the productivity benefits of the four-day work week. What we know is that this goes hand in hand with looking after our employees.
For the future of work to work, we need to get the basics right, and this starts with taking care of our people. Here are five recommended focus areas for Auckland employers in 2020.
1 - Get employees home safely
New Zealand doesn’t have the best record when it comes to the welfare of its workers. We have one of the highest rates of workplace fatality per capita in the world and 2019 saw a 10-year high. While Tāmaki Makaurau has the lowest fatality rate per capita of any region in New Zealand, our head offices often have national remits and are directly influencing the practices that put people at risk, including those of our customers and suppliers.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Acrow (the largest scaffolding, formwork, falsework and event infrastructure company in New Zealand) was recently recognised for its excellence in improving health and safety statistics, winning the SiteSafe Safety Leadership award for its Platform programme. How did Acrow do it? It used its own people to create a video about the importance of health and safety.
2 - Give young Aucklanders more opportunities
The overall unemployment rate has been reducing since 2012, hovering around the 4 per cent mark in 2019. While we know there are genuine skills gaps out there, and low unemployment is making this even more challenging, over 10 per cent of young Aucklanders are not in employment, education or training (NEET) – this untapped workforce is an opportunity for Auckland to seize.1,2
Young women are more likely to be out of the workforce, and with construction predicted to be the largest growth industry for Auckland, views will need to shift on roles that haven’t traditionally been held by women. The Governments new Construction Sector Transformation Plan sets out this opportunity and we’ll continue work industry partners to get more women into the sector.3
There are lots of great initiatives underway. Fletcher Building, in collaboration with GirlBoss, is running GirlBoss Advantage: powered by Fletcher Building, the latest in a series of initiatives from the partnership, deliberately targeting areas where there is a gender gap. AJ Hackett was recently recognised as a finalist in the Tomorrow’s Workforce category of the Diversity Awards for its focus on getting young people into the tourism industry, particularly by dispelling myths around the lack of career opportunities.4
3 - Eliminate in-work poverty
In-work poverty is a significant issue that is quietly plaguing New Zealand’s workforce. The Human Rights Commission estimates that the proportion of working households in New Zealand that experience poverty is seven per cent, and disproportionately affects women, Pacific peoples, single-parent households and disabled workers.5
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo, has identified that tackling gender and ethnic pay gaps would help to reduce in-work poverty.6 A potential solution is ensuring that employers are paying a living wage – this not only benefits workers, it can also greatly benefit employers with increased worker loyalty, reduced turnover and increased reputation.7 Westpac, the first bank to be Living Wage Accredited, and one of the few corporates, has created a how to guide to assist other employers.
4 - Prioritise the importance of mental health
In 2019 New Zealand’s suicide rate hit its highest level ever, up to 14 per 100,000. Māori, men, and those aged between 15 and 24 are disproportionately represented.8 Wellness has been a trend in HR circles for a while now and most corporates will have an EAP service, but are we really doing everything we can to address this issue?
Businesses like BCITO9 and Fonterra10 have rolled out the GoodYarn programme, directly aimed at helping employers improve mental health literacy. Not sure where to begin? Wellplace and the Mental Health Foundation have free resources available to help employers start tackling mental health challenges head on.
5 - Mind the pay gap
Pay equity remains an issue for women in New Zealand and globally, with the median wage for women 9.3 per cent lower than men in 2019.11 The disparity is even greater for Māori, Pacific, and Asian women.12
To get started, Strategic Pay offers a free tool to assist organisations in identifying areas of concern and Global Women suggests 10 ways to close the gender pay gap. Or you could follow Lion’s example and do something as simple as not asking candidates what their current salary is. If you meet internal resistance? Try showing your colleagues this video to see if it gets the point across.
Learning and collaboration key to building our future workforce
While this article has focused on a number of present day issues that will impact our future workforce if not addressed, the good news is that there are plenty of Kiwi companies rising to the challenge and finding workable solutions. We can all play our part by sharing our HR stories (warts and all) and working together to look after our most important assets – our employees.
If you work in an organisation that is already making strides in the areas discussed here and you’re happy to share your experience, please get in touch.
Lauren Parr is part of the Skills and Workforce team at ATEED and leads the workforce resilience programme. Lauren has a background in human resources across a wide range of industries.
The views expressed above are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ATEED.