As we emerge from the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) relatively unscathed, Australians are looking differently at life and leading the way in a return to Global Financial Optimism (GFO). An international study commissioned by American Express, has shed some light on this trend and identifies the rise of the ‘Potentialists’, a resilient group who are looking for a more well-rounded and enriching life in the wake of the GFC.
Social researcher Mark McCrindle explains, “Potentialists are the one in five Australians who demonstrate a clear ambition to live a rounder life – one that mixes traditional career success with a refreshing appetite for new experiences. They are looking to make more of what they have, rather than always wanting more and display an optimistic attitude that has previously been most associated with Generation Y.”
“They are moving away from status purchases, such as designer items and lavish dinners, to investing their time and money into activities that offer personal enrichment, such as new skills and hobbies. When making a purchase ‐ whether it is technology, travel or entertainment ‐ people want the added bonus of an enriching and often educational benefit.”
When the GFC hit our shores in the later part of 2008, many Australians were forced to work fewer hours or to take annual leave. For many it was an opportunity to re-evaluate their lives and to find out what was really important to them.
Mark McCrindle told Australian Women Online, “The term Global Financial Optimism sums it up because these are the people who don’t think crisis, they think opportunity and optimism.”
According to Mark McCrindle signs of the trend have been growing for years, but it took an economic downturn to force so many to re-evaluate their lives.
As a result of the GFC four out of five Australians say they have re‐evaluated what is important to them and nearly two in three are more determined than ever to live life to the full. This growing desire for fulfilment can be seen with just under half of Australians citing they would like to discover a new skill, while more than a third would like to tap into their talent or explore their artistic or creative potential.
The American Express Social Insights Report found that while more than half of Australians reported wanting to spend more time enjoying a hobby, Potentialists aim to take it one step further and are turning their hobbies into a part‐time career.
“Working from home is one of the key drivers of what we call the ‘hobby-preneurs’,” said Mark McCrindle. “Turning a hobby into a business is a way of having it all – of fulfilling your potential and turning something you really enjoy doing into an income earner.”
The study also found that Potentialists are not constrained by typical demographics. They are both men and women and they are not defined by age or income. While strongly represented in the 30 to 34 age group, they are just as likely to be in their late 40s or early 50s.
When it comes to location, the research showed that Potentialists are most likely to reside in Brisbane which had the highest proportion of those who fit the Potentialist personality type, followed by Melbourne and Perth. Despite having the largest population of any city in Australia, Sydney only managed to rank fourth among the capitals.
Mark McCrindle explains, “Sydney is a global city and it is the business capital of Australia. It’s where people are based in the head office and where they are more likely to be focused on their careers. Those who are more attune to the work/life balance and looking for a sea-change, have already made such a shift and so I guess you’d say Sydney is a little more hard-bitten when it comes to the old hard work approach.”
The American Express Social Insights Report revealed that over half of all Australians would like to develop a better work‐life balance, but it is the Potentialists who have evolved the traditional notion of work‐life balance in this country. The Potentialist is nearly twice as likely as the rest of the population to define work‐life balance as variety, rather than working less. These people will actually change the structure of their work to achieve success in other interests, rather than just using their weekends or after work hours.
“The ABS has been tracking the growth in multiple job holders and there are more people in Australia who have more than one job than ever before. It’s not so much that people are wanting to work less hours, as much as they’re wanting control of their hours and wanting to take charge of their work life and multiple jobs allow people to do that.”
“The working from home hobbists are still working full-time roles and then running the hobby on the side. So again, it’s not that they don’t want to work, they’re prepared to work harder but they just want to enjoy their work and they want variety in their role.”
When it comes to work/life balance, Mark McCrindle says employers are much more receptive to flexible work practices than they use to be.
“Over the last decade we’ve seen a lot of companies working hard to engage with their staff to provide flexible work practices such as, different work schedules and transfers to different areas, just so that staff can have the variety.”
“We’re seeing companies offer more training and not just work skills training, but sending employees to motivational courses and providing personal coaches, life coaches, personal development books and that sort of thing. This is all part of the Potentialist trend and employers have realised to have a good employer brand, they really need to engage with this group and offer them more than just a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”
“We are also seeing a lot of senior leaders not wanting to model that 60 hour week behaviour and actually saying look, we need to respect our staff and respect their health and their families and their relationships, so we’re not going to model or encourage extreme work practices.”
Corrina Davison, Vice President of Brand, Loyalty and Rewards, from American Express adds, “We now have a better understanding of the impact of the GFC and it is clear people want a rounder life, mixing career with hobbies and new experiences. We are seeing this with the increasing number of employees taking up volunteering opportunities at work and making the most of flexible work arrangements so they have the time to follow their passions.”
American Express will be holding a three day festival of potential from 3 – 5 December 2009 on Pyrmont Bridge (at the swing bridge over Cockle Bay) in Sydney. The festival will include a major community art project that will give people the opportunity to explore their inner artist and help others in the community to realise their potential.
American Express is also giving readers of Australian Women Online, the opportunity to realise their potential with a Red Balloon voucher – click here for details on how to enter.
Photo credit: tomas del amo – Fotolia.com