Employees are turning down roles or quitting jobs in search of higher pay packets as inflation spikes amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bay recruiters say the next few months will be "critical" for employees forced to look elsewhere to meet increased living costs and employers hit hard with "unrealistic" salaries to retain good staff.
Tauranga's The Staffroom Ltd, director Jill Cachemaille, said quitting jobs to find more money elsewhere was certainly a conversation candidates were not afraid to discuss.
"We have noticed an increase in candidate confidence when discussing remuneration and what people think they are worth – some are realistic and some are not.
"Money is important but people still want a rewarding job working among a cultured workplace."
Cachemaille said she was definitely having more discussions with employers asking about market rates and what "extras" candidates want.
Some examples included trips, extra annual leave for birthdays, professional development, as well as gyms, yoga and pilates memberships, she said.
Heading into 2022, Cachemaille said being realistic in terms of pay rates was key.
"Some employers are starting to walk away from experienced candidates who are demanding unrealistic salaries and will continue to search for the right person."
Co-director of Tauranga recruitment agency Ryan + Alexander, Bernadette Ryan-Hopkins, said there was always an uplift of resignations at this time of year as people reassessed their lives after breaks with their family.
"But thankfully the Bay and all it has to offer is a place that people want to come to rather than leave.
"We tend to see a bit more interest from candidates from outside of the region at this time."
Ryan-Hopkins said pay rates in the Bay had increased in the past few years already and more industries were starting to pay the living wage, particularly in the horticulture sector.
The New Zealand Living Wage hourly rate for 2021/2022 is $22.75 and came into effect on September 1 last year.
But this was putting pressure on industries traditionally recruiting from the same pool of people.
"They may need to meet the market or will risk losing their great people."
Flexi-working was seen as more important "pull-factors" across professions such as accounting and law, she said.
"There is generally a salary difference between practice and corporate though and we are hearing of some firms finding it tough to compete with the pull of the corporate world."
Ryan-Hopkins said while everything was pointing to a "Great Resignation" coming soon she was not sure the Bay had seen the full effect yet.
She said perhaps the Bay was cushioned by its desirable location but with border restrictions and inflationary pressures continuing in 2022 the next few months will be "critical" for employees and employers.
"Employees may be forced to look elsewhere to meet their increased living costs and employers may be hit hard with increased salary costs to retain their amazing people.
"After a tough couple of Covid years, this will be very hard for many local businesses to take."
Rotorua manager of Personnel Resources / Temp Resources Ltd, Angelique Scott, said candidates were in hot demand with a good candidate being snapped up within a day or two.
"We have a few candidates who have resigned from their positions as they feel they are not being paid a fair hourly rate."
But Scott urged people to ensure they had another role to go to before resigning if they have a mortgage to pay.
Scott said a few clients had emailed asking for advice on hourly rates.
"As the cost of living goes up, we are finding our clients are wanting to keep their employees happy and they are wanting to keep up with inflation.
"Everyone knows only too well how expensive petrol is at the moment."
But Scott said sometimes a candidate's expectations were too high as well.
"Some clients will want a potential employee to prove themselves and then they may look at increasing their hourly rate.
"If this is the case, it is a good idea to add this into the paperwork to review in three-to-six months.
"We are so busy at the moment we are also taking on additional staff to assist us. There is definitely a lot more movement in the market now."
Scott said accountants and accounts roles were in hot demand right now.
"We are finding the hourly rates have gone up dramatically so clients can secure a good candidate."
There was a "huge drive" for higher rates from candidates.
"We have people turning down a role if the hourly rate is not high enough."
But Scott said on top of an hourly rate, finding a company that aligns with their values and provides flexibility, work-life balance, and good team culture will also go a long way.
"To some people, this is even more important than an hourly rate."
The Council of Trade Unions' 'Mood of the Workforce" survey of 1600 workers revealed 70 per cent of workers said their wages have not kept up with the rising cost of living in the past 12 months.
"In a year when our frontline workers got us through the pandemic, Kiwis are clearly not being paid what they deserve," acting CTU secretary Tali Williams said.
But AUT Professor of Human Resource Management Jarrod Haar said while many workers might feel squeezed, they've never had as much bargaining power.
Haar has been tracking New Zealand's workforce since April 2021 and found a trend dubbed the "Great Resignation" which has put more focus on employee turnover and burnout.
From an employer's perspective it could be a "disaster", he said.
"Tauranga used to have a pun name $10 Tauranga. With rising house and rental costs, those earning minimum wage are going to be economically challenged to survive."
Although the timing couldn't be worse for many firms with the changes in Covid restrictions, Haar said employers should consider pay rises to limit employee turnover.
A rise could often be a cheaper option than recruiting and training a new staffer, who could well cost more in today's market, he said.
"You will find some employers' who can afford it and will be pre-empting things and giving pay rises to try and secure talent."
Haar said the Bay, like the rest of the country, was heading into its peak of the "Great Resignation" in the next few months.
"We are well and truly in it now. My fear is in 2022 if the borders are still closed the Great Resignation could become horrendous in six months' time.
"The Bay is a very attractive place for workers but is it enough to get movement in the Bay's workforce?"
The latest Trade Me Jobs quarterly data showed, in October to December 2021, the average salary in the Bay of Plenty was $64,352 - a 6 per cent increase year-on-year.
In Tauranga, the average salary in Q4 was $65,049 and $62,277 in Rotorua.
The Bay of Plenty saw a 33 per cent increase in job listings in Q4 compared with the same period in 2020.
Rotorua job listing numbers were up by 27 per cent year-on-year and 40 per cent in Tauranga.
The highest paying sector in the Bay was IT, with an average salary of $95,216.
Trade Me Jobs sales director Matt Tolich said, like the rest of the country, the Bay was facing a "massive candidate shortage", which will not be alleviated until the borders re-opened.
"This, paired with the all-time high average salaries and the increasing number of job listings mean job hunters are still very much in the driver's seat."
Additional reporting - NZ Herald