Australian workers less committed to their job than global peers

22 December 2023 4 min. read

A new survey report from strategy consulting firm Boston Consulting Group shows that more than one third of Australian workers are at risk of leaving their jobs over the coming year, with bad managers a major factor.

More than one third of Australian workers aren’t committed to their current jobs according to survey of employees in eight leading economies conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), with the country featuring the largest cohort of those considered at risk of departing their workplaces over the next twelve months.

Notably, the survey revealed that managers good and bad have the greatest influence on employee satisfaction and attrition rates.

Australian workers less committed to their job than global peers

To reach its findings, BCG quizzed 11,000 employees as to their functional and emotional workplace needs in Australia, the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, India and Japan across a number of industries, including those in the food & beverage, retail, manufacturing, tech, financial and healthcare sectors among others. Questions related to both the value placed on aspects such as hours and pay as well as the need to feel valued and supported.

When put to them directly, 36 percent of the Aussies surveyed couldn’t muster a response more concrete than a ‘maybe’ when asked if they saw themselves remaining with their current organisations a year from now, a figure well above the global average of 28 percent and 19 percent recorded in Germany. Altogether, 12 percent of respondents considered it ‘unlikely’ they would remain with their present employers over the longer-term.

Digging deeper, the researchers from BCG – which included Sydney-based managing director Nicole Sibilio – then applied an analytical consumer research lens to the results to better understand the decision-making process and which factors were the biggest drivers of retention, with fascinating results.

Australian workers less committed to their job than global peers

Functional concerns such as pay trumped on the surface, while emotional needs came to the fore when choosing between different aspects of work. Here, remuneration was far and away the top driver when asked what would lead an employee to take a new job, attracting almost two thirds of responses, followed by benefits and perks and then hours or work-life balance.

hen choosing between the aspects of work which mattered most to them however, the feeling of being treated fairly and with respect and the sense of job security moved into the third and fourth spot, with benefits and perks plummeting in importance.

The art of retention

Further cross-analysis reveals an ever clearer correlation between emotional requirements and retention. For those who saw themselves remaining with their current employer beyond the next year, the elements which drew the highest levels of satisfaction were job security and the feeling of being treated fairly and with respect, with the enjoyment of the work and sense of respect also making the top five. Compensation dropped down to 15th on the list of attributes.

BCG says the message is clear; if companies want to keep their employees, they need to address their emotional needs. And the most important lever in this regard is the development of better managers and their areas of focus – those who have the greatest impact on an employee’s day-to-day experience. According to the survey data, the risk of departure doubled to 56 percent for employees who expressed a strong dissatisfaction with their managers.

Australian workers less committed to their job than global peers

On the flip-side, those described as great managers were associated with a 72 percent reduction in attrition risk, along with significant increases in employee motivation and job satisfaction. When paired with the other most important levers in having the support of leaders, access to resources, and workplace equality in terms of the chance to succeed (the latter ranked second among Australians), the attrition risk dropped to a global average of just 9 percent.

“Investing in developing better managers who can deliver the connection, support, appreciation, and motivation all employees crave is a no-regrets investment,” says co-author Deborah Lovich, a senior partner with BCG in the US. “Most companies think they are already investing in building their front-line leader capabilities, but what is required is a step change in thinking – fundamentally rethinking what great managers do and how they do it to sustainably build skills.”

With its latest research underscoring what the strategy firm describes as a fundamental recent shift in the employer-employee dynamic, BCG ultimately concludes that companies now need to start treating their employees as if they were customers to aid retention, deploying all of their “customer-focused capabilities such as deep discovery, sophisticated needs assessment, segmentation, personalisation, design thinking, and true employee journeys.”