There is no doubt that since 2020 we have witnessed one of the greatest upheavals in the world of work. During the pandemic, huge swathes of the population lost their jobs, and those still in employment held on for eighteen uncertain months. Recruiters struggled to find new positions as organizations hunkered down and largely put off hiring until they weathered the storm.
Flash forward to 2021, and recruiters are in a completely different position. After the stresses and strains of living through a pandemic, workers were rethinking their priorities and making major changes.
Coined the great resignation, employees were leaving en mass, yet companies were struggling to fill positions with top talent. So much so that even well-established organizations like Amazon, Target, and Walmart began offering free college tuition as part of their employment packages.
So what are job seekers looking for in the new normal? Below we break down the 8 priorities topping candidates list as we adapt to the future of work.
1. A better work/life balance
The pandemic taught us all that life is incredibly unpredictable. Whether we experienced the symptoms of COVID-19 ourselves or knew someone close to us who had, it made us rethink what we considered normal before.
Even without being personally touched by the coronavirus, experiencing such a global event has made many people reevaluate what they want from their lives. Whether it's swapping their pre-pandemic commutes for more time with their family or leaving expensive cities so they can save up for the future, employees have been making major life changes that have knock-on effects for businesses.
As we have seen, 2021 saw unhappy employees leaving in droves. Stories abounded of big names losing staff over plans to cut hybrid or remote working as soon as it was safe to do so. While many employees love coming into the office full time, with more companies switching to remote or hybrid working, top talent has more options than ever to find an organization that meets their needs.
Lockdowns and being forced to work from home showed many organizations that operating remotely is possible. After enjoying the perks of working from home, teams are looking for more flexibility in terms of location and work hours.
While there are numerous benefits to meeting in person for certain tasks, there are times when it's helpful to get our heads down in a distraction-free zone. For some employees, even a few days out of the office cuts down on lengthy commutes, freeing up time to exercise or take the kids to school and reducing transport and child care costs.
TomTom is just one organization that has transformed its workplace strategy during COVID-19. In 2021 they switched to hybrid working, where employees are asked to choose the work environment that best suits their to-do list. They also announced that team members could work from another country for up to 12 weeks of the year. Tech giant Facebook announced its plans to be 50/50 when it comes to remote working by the year 2030.
While employees shouldn't be expected to be online at all hours, having a little adaptability around the traditional 9-5 is gaining increasing appeal. Setting core contact hours but allowing employees to schedule the rest of their day around a yoga class or picking up kids from school without prior permission is becoming more normalized in the post-pandemic world.
3. Support to WFH
Many of us learned the hard way that balancing our laptops on a stack of books in the kitchen isn't going to be conducive to great work. The pandemic shone a light on how important it is to have the correct setup to reap the benefits of remote working.
With the job market in their favor, candidates will be asking upfront about the support they can expect when working from home. Nothing will put off new hires more than a company closing or reducing its office spaces yet expecting teams to pay out of pocket for their WFH equipment.
Whether it's an extra screen or an ergonomic chair, more and more organizations are offering stipends to set employees up at home. Some companies extend their remote work policies to use the money saved on real estate to compensate employees for their extra Internet or electricity bills. When seeking out a future workplace, candidates are increasingly looking for businesses that offer clear guidelines around WFH equipment and expenses and will steer clear of those who remain murky on this topic.
4. Fair compensation
Traditionally salaries have varied depending on where the office was. But with the future of the workplace in flux, old notions around compensation were shattered. Increasingly there has been a push for wages to be based on skillset and experience over a candidate's location.
Software company Drift provides an interesting case study. Previously adverse to their employees working from home, they decided to change to a remote-first business model after seeing the benefits during the pandemic. In a widely respected move, Drift also announced they wouldn't be changing employees' salaries as they shifted to a fully remote working model.
Fair compensation is perhaps the clearest demonstration leaders can give their teams that their skills and hard work are appreciated. With remote work and more ingenious ways of gathering teams on the rise, organizations are seeing location as far less important. With top candidates hard to find, a more forward-thinking approach to compensation will surely improve staff retention and prove more cost-effective in the long run.
5. A great company culture
Being thrust into working from home showed organizations how critical it is to unite their teams with a group mission. Without feeling part of something larger than ourselves, we lose the sense of belonging vital to keeping motivated. A lack of connection to their company's purpose was one of the leading reasons employees quit in huge numbers in 2021.
When searching for their latest role, candidates are excited by organizations that appear to gather like-minded individuals to work together towards a common goal. For example, a quick scroll through the careers page for philanthropic shoe company TOMS, and it's clear what bonds their employees is shared love of giving back to communities across the globe.
But this charitable mindset goes beyond TOMS one for one business model. Not only do they offer staff generous perks, but employees are given various chances to champion the causes close to their hearts. Alongside regular volunteer hours, team members can put forward their favorite NGOs for the company's Tomorrows Project, which gifts selected programs $10k to keep up their good work.
6. Meaningful interactions with their co-workers
Remote and hybrid working doesn't remove the fact that, as humans, we need in-person contact with our colleagues. Time together is crucial for building camaraderie and trust that allows employees to bring their best to challenging or creative projects.
While hybrid workplaces will have policies to outline when employees are expected to come in, bringing in remote workers from further afield could incur higher expenses. After catching planes, trains, or automobiles to get to the office, it's frustrating to sit in silence with colleagues and do tasks you could have just as easily done at home.
Companies who encourage remote working employees to prioritize group meetings and check-ins with managers for their in-office days demonstrate their desire for teams to make the most of their time face-to-face.
The shift from full-time shared workspaces has inspired a revolution in the ways businesses get their staff together. Scraping video calls and webinars for an awesome offsite can serve two functions. Not only do they allow teams to brainstorm new ideas in inspiring surroundings they can also be used as vital opportunities to reconnect with remote co-workers.
Focusing on employee experience can take offsites to another level of productivity and generate a buzz around your hiring process. Imagine candidates reading that in the past, you gathered your marketing team in buzzing Lisbon to soak up the artistic vibes, celebrate key wins, and brainstorm innovative ideas! Scheduling sessions where groups can concentrate on a creative task and unwind afterward with an awe-inspiring activity can ensure current, and future employees are excited to work for your organization.
7. A kind and inclusive workplace
The pandemic brought on a unique set of challenges, some were handled better than others. It wasn't long till stories were doing the rounds of businesses conducting mass firings over Zoom or piling pressure on overwhelmed teams. Thankfully Covid-19 and the lockdowns that ensued have helped reduce some of the stigmas that surround mental health, and staff are slowly feeling more empowered to be open about their challenges with their employers. When filling positions, businesses that can demonstrate how they care for employee wellbeing will come out on top.
The last few years have also shown how society treats different groups. From the Me Too movement to Black Lives Matter, these important movements have created a huge shift in our social consciousness. As a welcomed result, businesses will be expected to be more upfront regarding their policies around diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Recent surveys have revealed that 49% of participating organizations shared that job seekers asking about diversity has increased since 2020 and that 61% of companies are putting more energy into inclusion in the year ahead.
But this isn't an exercise in platitudes. Thanks to social media and sites such as Glassdoor, a quick search can reveal to potential hires exactly what to expect when they join the ranks of your organization. Transparent and inclusive policies backed by consistent action will encourage the best talent to your team.
8. Employee wellbeing at the fore
As we move to new ways of working, swopping in-office perks for meaningful benefits is just one method businesses can employ to show employees they care. Paying for the premium versions of mindfulness apps like Headspace or Calm or providing more robust support through online therapy subscriptions can go a long way to demonstrating a serious commitment to wellbeing and openness around mental health challenges.
For example, at TravelPerk, we use iFeel to offer employees round-the-clock support from registered psychologists and use AndJoy to provide gym memberships and online fitness classes to our teams in various cities.
Recent years have been especially tough on employees' mental and physical health. In the future, job seekers are looking to employers to help break the stigma around mental health and take their staff's wellbeing seriously. Failing to address how they take care of their remote workers could see some organizations bypassed by top candidates.
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