Employer
Published 22 March, 2021

5 Ways Covid 19 Has Positively Impacted Work Culture and Talent Availability (7 Mins Read)

The pandemic has brought the people face to face with a new reality. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, talent has left the office building and we have now realized that in many places, it is unlikely to come back to the office again. Technology has moved the people away from the office and back into the comfort of their homes across the world, from where they are doing their work brilliantly. We are now building a culture to work outside the office buildings, which supports our life on a more even playing field, with talent that can come from anywhere. As we look into the future, it’s time to embrace these new ways of working for the long term, with a lot of focus on our productivity, well being and equality that can work well both for the employers and employees even after this crisis ends. It’s time now to welcome the global talent pool which is available to us in order to drive growth, regardless of where they are located i.e at home or anywhere else.

Many people have no desire to return to the office full time. A global analysis shows, 8 in 10 workers want more remote work to attain a healthier work life fusion. To be sure, we had been talking about the benefits of an agile, hybrid and fluid workforce for some time, but the pandemic marks the formal entrance to the age of digital nomads and a personalized workforce, with five salient trends (and opportunities) to consider:

  1. Technology Is Enabling New Ways of Collaboration: Discussions about new technologies, such as AI, often paint a bleak and dehumanizing picture. But one has to see how these advents in new technology is actually enabling greater human performance. A more obvious trend so far has been that humans working with, and enhanced by, AI, almost always produce better results than humans without AI, or AI without humans. While the crisis accelerated the use of technology, which enabled the decoupling of work from a “place”,this shift was already occurring as a large proportion of organizations — large, medium, and small — made necessary investments in online collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams etc, growing the market for collaboration software to more than $45 billion globally (resulting in a 300% increase in Zoom’s share price since the pandemic started).

Technology is rapidly becoming more human. We aren’t simply collaborating; we are running businesses, visiting family, attending weddings, and educating our children through technology, making the virtual world more humane, forging deep digital connections that are founded on true human connectedness. The crisis has converted collaboration software to “cohabitation software,” with Microsoft reporting a 10% increase in social meetings (including “pajama day” or “meet my pet day”) during the past few months. All this allows us to exist “in the same space at the same time” together, while we determine the place.

  1. Understanding that culture is not limited to physical office premises: “How do you possibly build culture when you don’t sit together”? Is a question which has been asked to business leaders and HR leaders alike. Leading organizations have responded effectively, they recognized that culture doesn’t exist within walls; it exists within people, so you have to build culture through people, wherever they sit. The pandemic has proven that we can and must build culture from living rooms and home offices across the country. Workers knew this a while ago. It’s why people may use the exact same technology yet experience work in a very different way when they move from one company to another. Fundamentally, culture is “how we do things around here,” and it’s the sum of default behaviors, preferences, values, and decisions that make each organization a unique habitat, regardless of whether people frequent an office or not.

Now company leaders are realizing it as well. Leaders can focus on building culture anywhere by refraining from micromanaging, getting over the politics of presentism, and learning to measure what each employee actually produces and contributes to the organization with as much objectivity and data as possible. Above all, by nurturing trust in relationships with employees, leaders can upgrade the company culture even in a virtual-only world.

  1. Work That Supports Life: ManpowerGroup researchshows that the second concern after health for workers post-crisis is maintaining flexibility. Most workers want to work remotely a few days a week; they want a hybrid workplace between work and home that allows for better balance. But the office does still have a role in human connection. Companies like Fordare taking this as a moment to redesign how office space works. Others are investing in new hubs where people come together to collaborate and socialize. Gen Z employees are most positive about coming back into the office (on their terms), and they, especially, look to the workplace as a source of socialization as much as a place to network and learn. Gen X and Boomers, who are leading many companies today, enjoy the separation that the physical workplace brings in their efforts to keep work and home a bit more separate.

It’s critical for leaders to realize that while workers may still want to occasionally come to the office, few want to come in every day. For jobs that must be in-person, it’s going to be important to flex the hours to minimize the commute, flex the shift to allow parents to be part-time teachers, and flex the days to enable the workforce to work in a way that supports life.

  1. Remote Meetings are a Great Equalizer: The great thing about video calls is that the boxes are all the same size — it’s a great equalizer. Prior to the crisis, we had all been in meetings where a portion of the team was in person and part was online. The online participants were primarily bystanders to the actual meeting. There was an advantage to being “in the room,” akin to being in the right place at the right time, and saying the right thing to the right person.

As companies work to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion, technology provides the level playing field most groups want. Not only is it harder to engage in office politics, show-off, or manage up when you are in a Zoom call and everyone is watching, but the ability to capture, record, and analyze meetings data provides organizations with hard facts to evaluate D&I in real-time. Diversity analytics, including a measure of how much people from different groups speak during meetings, whether they are included or excluded from the informal social networks that govern the power dynamics of an organization, and whether their ideas and comments are well-received by the group, promises to accelerate progress in a still dysfunctional area. It is a wonderful silver lining that technology and the global health crisis have sanitized a lot of the toxic politics and nepotism that corrupt the meritocratic ideal of talent-centric organizations: it is a lot harder to “pretend to work” when nobody sees you or cares about where you are.

  1. Talent Geographically Unleashed: The virus isn’t confined by borders, and neither is talent in a virtual world. For years, the model has been the same; when you’re interested in hiring talent, an early question is often “Will you relocate?” On most talent plans around the world, it’s the biggest career-limiting question, as it’s restricted career advancement and company growth for decades. However, in recent years, we have seen an empowerment of skilled talent calling the shots on separating where they choose to live and where they contribute to work. Software developers experienced the earliest shift — the work followed the talent. Then, with record low unemployment in many areas of the world last year, we saw this openness to location expand into other sectors, such as banking and consumer goods.

While platforms like Upwork, FlexingIT and GLG  etc have been the early movers in connecting talent irrespective of location. With the Covid 19 pandemic, technology has now got a great impetus to tap into untethered talent . Talented individuals with in-demand skills in any sector now realize they can live where they choose and work where they are qualified. And employers now realize they can source “best of” talent from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity. The huge talent pool which has been ignored till date have been the stay at home parents who had to take a break from their profession in order to nurture their little kids.

Now these people can very well join full time jobs, relaunch themselves into a thriving professional career and continue to discharge their responsibilities as parents.  The idea that workers have to physically move to get a job is gone, along with the costs of relocation. It’s actually quite simple: talented workers want to be free — free from geographic borders, free from physical location expectations, and free from government restrictions. As The Economist estimates, opening borders to free up talent would result in a $78 trillion increase in global GDP: “Labor is the world’s most valuable commodity — yet, thanks to strict immigration regulation, most of it goes to waste.” If technology and cultural organizational changes enable people to do their work from wherever they want, they will set talent free even with current immigration laws and restrictions, countering the recent political trend to slow down globalization in favor of nationalist policies.

 

Workplace and workforce have now been separated, while work, home, and school have been brought together. Technology is moving humanity away from the office and back into homes across our nation every day. We are building culture outside of buildings, with work that supports life on a more even playing field, with talent that can come from anywhere. As we look to the future, it’s time to unleash these new way of working for the long-term, with a focus on well-being, equality, and productivity that can work for both employers and employees long after this crisis ends. It’s time to embrace the truly global talent pool that is available to drive growth, regardless of where those people call home.

In short, the global talent pool has arrived, and talent is the new global currency… if businesses have the culture, confidence, and technology to tap into it.

 

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