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When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?

two young people at sea

How can organisations speak to Kiwis when their priorities and plans are disrupted by crises? 

In a nutshell

  1. In early 2020 we asked people how they felt they were progressing in life: two thirds of under 50s said they expected to make more progress this year. Most over 50s expected to make about the same progress.
  2. But now, organisations are faced with an audience whose ambitions for progress are on hold.
  3. Our research identified the ‘big’ things that signalled progress, but it also identified smaller things, like learning, getting tasks done, and helping people. These are the topics that we can talk about, even in today’s environment.

In 2017 we talked to New Zealanders about what progress meant to them and how well they thought they were progressing in life. We checked in at the beginning of this year we asked people how they thought they’d progress in 2020. 

In this series we are sharing insights that can help you navigate the current crisis because if you understand Kiwis then you can talk to them about the right things, in the right way. But how do you talk to people about progress when lives have been put on hold? 

Progress, interrupted

Let’s start with what we know. Back in 2017, despite a healthy economy, only just over half of us thought we were ‘getting ahead’. So the mood of the nation wasn’t overly positive but instead suggested some optimism. The most common words associated with progress reflected momentum: improving, moving forward, goals and learning. And the most top of mind signal of progress was employment and job progress.

Our more recent data tells us that most people under 50 years old report that over the last 2 years they’ve made more (57%) or the same (27%) progress compared to 2 years ago. And new migrants, Asian and Pacifica people over index. Moreover for under 50s, two thirds said they expected to make more progress in 2020, with Auckland over indexing. Whereas most over 50s expected to make about the same progress in 2020.

Clearly 2020 is not playing out in a way that anyone could have expected and for many life will not move ahead and for some it will go backwards. So instead of a quietly optimistic mindset, organisations are faced with an audience whose ambitions are on hold, who are coping with at best disappointment and at worse significantly deteriorating lifestyles.

It's the little things

Our research identified the ‘big’ things that signalled progress,  but it also identified the smaller things and these are the topics that we can talk about even in today’s environment. 

Associations with making progress:

  • Learning 87%
  • Getting tasks done 85%
  • Helping someone 82%

How can your organisation or brand make these specific things things happen for people? 

How could you acknowledge the value of these and support people to achieve some kind of progress until such time as they can crank up the gears again and start making progress against their goals?

What can you do to bolster people’s hopes and dreams for the future?

Actions will be remembered more than words when this is over and helping people make just a little progress could go a long way. 

It's never been more important to make information-based decisions. Because although the country is in lockdown, organisations still have to make choices that will guide their actions and determine the success of what they do.

So, in this series, we’re sharing what TRA knows about New Zealanders to help inform better decision making, so that our companies can better serve people. 

Read the other articles in this series:

Kiwis or New Zealanders?
A nation of independently minded rule-benders
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA

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