Next steps

What makes the Service sector resilient?

Our research supports further exploration and action to enhance Service sector resilience and mobility

We need to further amplify Māori success in the Service sector

The Service sector is significant for Māori. This was shown to us by the extent of opportunities taken to work in, own, or operate businesses in the Service sector, as well as the reasons people shared for pursuing those opportunities. We have heard that, for Māori, many skills that are inherent to the Service sector are intertwined with their culture and their values.

There is a need for Māori businesses to be connected with each other across networks, industries, and regions. We have heard that the three key areas that would support Māori businesses moving forward are:

  • more Māori mentorship
  • more training aimed at lifting Māori businesses to become self-sufficient; and
  • the establishment of a Māori business directory where connections can be made.

The relationships that surround an individual in the Service sector are influential. There’s work to be done to support not just the individual potential in the workforce, but to encourage their whānau and wider community to understand and support the value of the Service sector and education.

The way that we recognise and credentialise ‘soft skills’ that are embedded within te ao Māori contexts needs further exploration. Specifically, this includes considering how well so-called soft skills in qualification or programme design either starts with or translates to Māori conceptualisations, perspectives and experiences.

We need to continue exploring the characteristics and dynamics of the workforce

Our research provides a picture of the minimum size of the workforce and its associated characteristics. It has also highlighted some of the stark differences that appear when commonly used thresholds are removed entirely. We think the part-time, temporary, and seasonal Service sector workforce is under-represented as a result – potentially by up to 250,000 people. Given the value of these people to the Service sector, we think it is useful to explore:

  • a more inclusive data definition; and
  • how different definitions may change the composition of the workforce; and
  • the implications for how best to meet the Service sector workforce and industry needs.

We need to explore ways to enhance and showcase the value of the Service sector

Being able to offer employees work that responds to their value set increases the likelihood that a relationship will be maintained with them. This in turn will add to networks of potential workforce around businesses – even if they don’t stay in a job forever, they may recommend your business to whānau or their community as a desirable place to seek employment.

We also heard that there is work to be done to help ensure the Service sector is an attractive choice. We need to support an environment that meets the aligning aspirations of employees and employers. Our research has told us that:

  • employees want more than just a good wage. They want to have a purpose, flexibility, and stable job opportunities. They want to feel like their employer cares about them. They also want the opportunity to learn, grow and be promoted and know that their well-being has been spoken about as being a major consideration.
  • Māori businesses want an engaged and productive workplace full of their local community, iwi and/or hapū. They want to retain their people and attract them back into their workforces and be a part of the holistic values of their people.

“But now I’m noticing that really, the roles have switched. They’re almost interviewing us to see whether we fit the set of ideals”

(Food & Wholesale, Iwi-owned)


“It’s hard with casual workers, if you can’t give them somewhat regular work they’ll go elsewhere.”

(Tourism, Auckland)


“I think that the current workforce is very aware that there are shortages around and that they do have a lot of options. So which one they select is key”

(Food & Wholesale, Auckland)

We need to unleash the potential of the workforce for the time people are in our sector

People will always move in to, around, and out of the Service sector. This can create a wider pipeline of skilled workers when people may stay in your web or relationships or networks, in turn enhancing resilience. However, at the same time as the data from Statistics New Zealand IDI suggests that the workforce size is at a natural level, employers continue to report skill shortages. That suggests that even when counting the non-conventional workforce, there are still not enough people to fill jobs. It is important to better understand the size and nature of the gap between the workforce size and available jobs. However, we also need to innovate for the reality that the workforce size will not readily grow to satisfy the jobs we need to fill. That means we need to:

  • leverage different avenues for people entering the sector, for example this research has shown a high degree of new entrants are people changing industry and referrals based on relationships and networks
  • understand the dynamics that cause churn and address them to help the Service sector be a place that people choose to work and want to stay for longer – including the relationship between the timing of investment in upskilling employees and their retention
  • explore the extent to which mobility can be attributed to the inherently seasonal and temporary nature of some industries, while also taking steps to smooth those fluctuations where possible.


It also means we need to ensure people and businesses are ready and able to work differently to mitigate the capacity gap, no matter its size. For example, this could mean:

  • investing in employees through appropriately sized and timed training
  • unbundling tasks and jobs, as well as so that people can quickly upskill for what is needed of them, with the option to add further training in smaller blocks that ease transferability.
  • recognising existing skills, knowledge, and attributes (rather than planning to train someone as a ‘blank slate’), given many people join the Service sector with prior experience from another industry or sector, or wider educational and lived experience.

We need to deliberately grow and recognise the skills that connect people

Many of the baseline skills that employers value are relational, such as effective communication and the ability to work in a team. These underpin how people interact with one another to provide excellent service, regardless of the particular workplace or industry. In some cases, the pandemic and increasing prevalence of technology have undermined traditional opportunities to develop these previously taken for granted skills. Overall, this means we need to:

  • treat these skills as transferrable or generic ‘sector’ skills – rather than taking a tailored or industry-specific approach
  • deliberately grow these skills across learners, rather than leaving them to develop ‘organically.’


This approach could equip people with what they need to seek movement within the Service sector and to have a smooth transition to other industries. It will also mean an easier investment in developing technical or context-specific skills.