To say the pandemic has affected business operations over the past 18 months would be something of an understatement.
It's not simply had a consequence on where we have been working, how we've been interacting with colleagues or what our '9-5' now looks like - it's had a huge impact on employer and employee mindsets towards work and what matters most.
With a much-publicised skills shortage wreaking havoc in several industries, partly due to border restrictions for skilled migrants entering the country, standard methods and tactics for talent recruitment are no longer enough. However, rather than focus on the potential problems this presents, now is the time for businesses to see this as an opportunity to broaden their talent pools, increase their inclusivity and ensure they hit the ground running in 2022.
The normalisation of remote and hybrid working has undoubtedly changed the business landscape forever, presenting new opportunities for businesses and individuals. The benefit of organisations truly embracing hybrid working - in which employees can choose where, when and how they work - presents opportunities no longer bound by location, and the pool of employees widens as more diverse candidates can integrate work into their life more flexibly.
By 'diverse candidates', think single parents who need to work from home more often or require flexible schedules to account for the school run; or those who live regionally who can operate remotely. There's also neurodiverse individuals who can bring a new perspective to employers with greater preference to choose how they work. It's time organisations consider talent who may have previously been overlooked due to a perceived need to come into the office.
Employees recognise in the current market they are in the driving seat. As a result, we've started to see the beginnings of the 'The Great Resignation' tide, with organisations trying to counter this by throwing inflated salary offers at current and potential employees. However, this is not always the deciding factor for employees, with the pandemic majorly shifting values. In our Hybrid Work Index, we found 64 per cent of people believe the ability to work from anywhere instead of coming into the office directly affects whether they stay at or leave a job. A flexible culture is a demand being made by employees.
I also feel strongly that Aussies are becoming wise to when a company truly values its employees, or rather, truly values their community of people. The pandemic, for me, has widened the gap between the employers who genuinely care for their people, and those that don't. Events and perks are giving way to a focus on family wellbeing, lifestyle benefits and job security - it's long-term care that is going to support employees. In our organisation, this includes many things from a conscious culture focused on being self-aware and thoughtful in our interactions, to trust in our team to work how they see fit, to transparent communication in complicated times. We know it's challenging to integrate work and life, so providing our people with regular companywide "days for me" to enable our communities to rest and recharge has become a ritual.
The approach towards employees must be tailored - one person's flexible schedule is unlikely to be the same as another's. The dial has shifted, and businesses must trust employees to manage their productively and achieve agreed outcomes. In this way, it really is hybrid life, rather than hybrid work. As such, why would anyone mandate a return to office? Why would you question the trust placed in people you hired to do a job?
Another interesting development we have seen throughout the pandemic has been people's desire to belong and feel part of a team. With the forced fully remote working environment, employees missed those spontaneous interactions, the 'watercooler moments' and it's part of the reason why many don't want to work from home five days a week. It's crucial employers equip their workforces with the right processes, mindset and technology to enable connections to happen regardless of where people choose to be. Cisco research showed 98 per cent of future meetings are expected to include at least one remote participant and therefore ensuring team members can connect, are motivated and are as included as they want to be will be another huge facet moving forward. Workplace cultures are slowly adapting to accommodate new values but can't afford to be left behind and face missing out on the nation's top talent.
The next few months will be a challenging period for Australian businesses as they develop hybrid working policies, and focus on how they can retain and attract from a talent pool that will be in high demand. For me and Cisco, it's important we recognise the opportunity in front of us when it comes to showcasing our business and what we can do for people who choose us. We were delighted to receive the top prize in the Great Place to Work awards for the second consecutive year in August, but are fully aware in a tight talent market with new benefits, incentives and bonuses for potential employees, consistency is key. We believe consistency lies in continuing to innovate our technology to improve human connection, a relentless focus on a flexible, healthy and inclusive employee experience, and listening to the evolving needs of our communities. The future of work lies in helping people find purpose, not perks.
- James Comer, head of Human Resources, ANZ at Cisco.