Post-Covid, the level of flexibility that employees can expect (and demand) from their jobs is higher than ever. How should jobseekers make the most of that?
The way we work has changed dramatically over the last ten years, thanks in most part to the advancement of technology. In the past year, however, Covid-19 has helped confirm that the opportunity to work remotely and with flexibility is becoming a standard expectation from jobseekers.
“People are wanting to be measured on the value they deliver, not necessarily the volume. They expect to be given the space and the trust they need to do their best work,” says Trade Me head of talent Carrie O’Meara-Malcolm.
With greater awareness around the importance of workplace wellbeing, and career pathways that recognise employees’ personal needs, candidates are becoming more selective about who they work for, and the roles they perform. There is an increasing demand for prospective employers to accommodate requests to work remotely and be flexible with their expected hours of work. Culture is becoming as important as pay.
“Gone are the days of 40-hour weeks working 9.00am until 5.00pm,” she says. “Candidates are looking at how organisations are cultivating the talent they already have, asking ‘what sort of pathways are there for me to develop?’ They also want to see that companies have a strategy around diversity and inclusion as a part of their people strategy.”
Candidates need their employers to offer more than attractive career pathways. They want to see greater consideration of how organisations meet their social responsibilities, and real diversity and inclusivity. O’Meara-Malcolm says organisations are being judged on their people strategies just as much, if not more, than their commercial strategies.
“We’re going to see more people seeking wellbeing. It’s no longer about ‘how does my life fit into my work?’ and more about ‘how does my work fit into my life?’ It’s a mindset change.”
Widely regarded as one of the most exciting places to work for in the world, Google is one example of a company that is ahead of the trend, offering its employees everything from on-site physicians and healthcare to travel insurance and emergency assistance for both personal and work-related vacations.
In the current job market, the pressure is on organisations to portray themselves as attractive places to work – and that requires authentic investment in creating a place where employees can get more than just a salary. It’s never been more important to attract talent, as companies scramble to recover from the after-effects of Covid-19, but they’re finding quality candidates in short supply.
According to O’Meara-Malcolm, there was a 50% decrease in the number of job applications in New Zealand over the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year. She attributes the decrease to people being more hesitant to leave their current roles in an unstable market.
The decrease in job applications also means organisations are being forced to look at developing talent from within, rather than seeking it outside the company. They are having to rethink their policies around working remotely, giving more consideration to how it affects workplace culture and productivity, says O’Meara-Malcolm.
If a jobseeker wants to ensure an employer ticks all their boxes, the first step is research, she says. In the same way employers are examining applicants’ CV and references, candidates should do the same to prospective employers.
“Research their website, the ‘careers’ page is always a good place to start. Check the values of the organisation to ensure they align with yours. Try to have a chat with someone from the organisation and find out what it really is like to work there. Finally, be realistic about your criteria.”
When it comes time to negotiate a contract, O’Meara-Malcolm says being upfront from the beginning about what you’re looking for in a workplace is the best way to gauge whether or not a prospective employer might be the right fit.
“Ask upfront and don’t be afraid to have the conversation at the beginning of the recruitment process,” she says.
“People are actually more confident in asking for different work arrangements. It’s not uncommon now, whereas before, only the odd person would ask to work differently. People working from home is not a risk anymore. It’s proven that they can do the same or even more in terms of output.”
As for those who are wanting to stay with the organisation they currently work for but are seeking a change in the way they work, O’Meara-Malcom says the best way to start is by actively engaging with your team leader or manager. More often than not they’ll be just as invested in your success and happiness in the workplace as you are – because that’s when they’re most likely to get the best, most productive employee.
“It starts with having that conversation with your leader. In some roles, it may not work but in a majority of roles it does.”
With no end to the pandemic in near sight, organisations are being forced to adapt the way they work, as are their employees. Candidates are more conscious of what they are seeking and many of their expectations are becoming the new norm. The way the world works has changed and it seems set to stay that way..
“Covid-19 has taught us a lot but the biggest is that we can be flexible with the way we work. I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.”
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