Summertime blues...

In New Zealand, recruitment agencies and IT chiefs say post-holiday blue are less of an issue and Kiwi workers are more loyal.

New Zealanders, it seems, are made of sterner stuff than those lily-livered Australians.

While I was in Sydney the other weekend the Sun-Herald ran a wonderful feature on "post-holiday blues".

The recruitment agents over there report January is their busiest time. On heading back to work, the first thing those sun-scarred beach bums think about is fleeing. “We’re a nation of quitters,” wrote journalist Michelle Griffin.

Holidays are supposedly about refreshing tired staff so they come back reinvigorated. But for many, they fail to get into gear after Christmas, and instead, productivity slumps.

In Britain, the London Chamber of Commerce, for example, reckons the post-holiday downturn costs capital businesses $2.5 billion through decreased productivity.

Post-holiday depression is well-known throughout the human resources industry, with a variety of websites advising on how to overcome it.

Many staff, if not most, seem unenthusiastic about returning to work, a feeling that soon fades, but in Australia increasing numbers of workers are leaving their jobs rather than sticking it out.

The feature said a fifth of Australians will leave their jobs this year, with almost a sixth of them getting fired.

Other surveys show a third regularly think about leaving their jobs. Almost half of those earning $120,000 are unhappy in their work, with most high-fliers are looking to rethink their lives.

A Drake International survey says almost half of 300 HR managers asked for reasons why people quit blamed bad management practices: broken promises, limited promotional opportunities, personality clashes and lack of support.

“Loyalty isn’t what it used to be,” commented Morgan & Banks IT section manager Ian James.

In New Zealand, by contrast, recruitment agencies and IT chiefs say post-holiday blues are less of an issue and Kiwi workers are more loyal.

ITANZ executive director Jim O’Neill says the IT industry suffers higher staff turnover than most, but movement has been somewhat steady in recent years.

Typically, some 8% to 10% of IT managers change their roles each year, with around one-in-six of technicians also shifting. For sales and marketing, staff turnover is about 15% to 20%, says O’Neill.

New Zealand employers have made efforts to look after their staff, he says, as they increasingly realise keeping hold of staff is cheaper than replacing them.

The former Employment Contracts Act also allowed individual rates and incentives and individual objectives to be set between employer and worker.

However, he accepts there tends to be some movement over summer, particularly in IT sales.

Some reps may have not made their targets and their bosses have threatened to keep a closer eye on them, or they did not make as much money as expected.

“People sitting on a beach may think it’s been a tough year and it’s time to move, but I do not think the problem is as bad here,” O’Neill says.

Candle IT&T recruitment’s Christine Fitchew says there is post-holiday blues, like there is Monday-morning blues, but she doubts it encourages a flood of resignations.

If anything, the summer period means fewer vacancies, which would not be the case if more people were quitting. The market at this time does have more graduates and entry-level candidates, though no more “placeable” candidates, she says.

IT recruitment consultant Alan Diepraam of Enterprise says in New Zealand, any "blues" are caused by an actual lack of holidays. His agency deals with many graduates at this time of year and the IT slowdown of 2000 has caused some redundancies.

“There is also a proportion of job-seekers looking for a new role, but I suggest that this is due to people wanting a fresh start or to advance their careers, rather than post-holiday trauma,” he believes.

However, for those looking at making the jump, here are a few tips:

  • Make a list of reasons why you dislike your current job.
  • Ask yourself what you can do to improve your situation at work.
  • Would you still leave if you were offered more money or a promotion?
  • Ask to see your boss or HR manager for an assessment of your work.
  • Think carefully whether or not you will be better off in a new job.

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