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Frog Recruitment poll reveals declining career ambition across the generations

The saying goes that you can’t push anyone up a ladder unless they are willing to climb – with only one in five Gen Z and millennial workers currently up for the challenge, the top of the Kiwi career ladder is looking a little lonely.

A Frog Recruitment poll this month asked 1035 New Zealand workers about their primary work motivation and whether they were happy to climb the career ladder.

Eighteen per cent of 20-35-year-old workers are putting their career ambitions first, yet surprisingly, 80% of workers aged 35-50 said they were happy not to be career climbers despite being only midway through their working lives.

Frog Recruitment managing director Shannon Barlow says when people are reluctant to progress in their roles, it can create workforce issues.

“People can become ‘competent complacent’ in their job. They may have been in their role for a long time and are very good at it, but they may be stale in their work and have stopped exploring new ways of achieving outcomes because they feel they have done it all before. They are settled into the status quo.”

Conversely, the poll reveals that 39% of Gen Z and millennial workers are unhappy that their careers are not progressing as they would like.

“Less experienced team members are blocked from moving up the ladder into the roles occupied by the Competent Complacent, which can drive them to look outside their organisation for a better role or make a move across the ditch to Australia.”

For every 20-35-year-old worker who wishes they were on a faster track to promotion, more of their peers (82%) are happier focusing on other work perks and not primarily driven to climb the ladder.

“Climbing the corporate ladder, or any work ladder, can come with the burden of work stress. The pressures of competing with colleagues, overtime, travel, and pushing beyond the comfort zone aren’t for everyone.

“The last decade has shown us that achieving a healthy work-life balance will reduce burnout and improve the productivity of our workforce. Employers have never been more tuned in to offering work flexibility to achieve these better mental health outcomes for their people.”

Barlow says the data reveals the focus on climbing the career ladder dwindles as workers age. Ninety percent of workers 50-plus admit career climbing is not their primary work motivation, compared with 87% of 35-50-year-olds and 82% of our workforce aged 20-35.

“Most people are very satisfied knowing they’re doing a great job, and many don’t aspire to be managers or to join the C-suite.

“A high-performing team includes different people with different perspectives, personalities and personal aspirations. Recognising work satisfaction means different things to different people is the strength of a successful team.”

 

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