The impacts have been catastrophic, and the effects felt globally. A Gartner survey reveals 88% of organisations have encouraged or required employees to work from home due to Coronavirus, enforcing a global ‘Work from Home experiment’ which none of us saw coming and nobody had planned for. Surprisingly however, the experiment seems to have paid off. Studies have proven that most employees working remotely have not only adapted quickly to the new ways of working – but they have thrived too, reporting positive effects on their daily work, feeling more engaged, and having a stronger sense of well-being than those in non-remote jobs with little flexibility do. The post-COVID era is dawning, and now is the time to start planning for the Future Workplace.
Previously, the idea of the big, shiny office, with its traditional meeting rooms, flat whites on tap and meditation spaces was seen as critical for productivity, culture, and to stay competitive in the war for talent. These days, Australian businesses must acknowledge their employees’ needs to reframe their thinking and completely transform the role of their centralised offices. The emerging challenge for managers in the move to remote work, is about ensuring their people continue to feel safe, supported and engaged when the way they work has completely changed. But when you can’t define or control the physical working environment, it may seem impossible to guide your people effectively through change. With the help of a proactive strategy, and a people-first approach alongside new technological advancements at the heart, the opportunity for teams to grow and flourish is upon us. Here’s some tips on how to get started.
Perform an audit of the roles within your company, determining which can be:
After close consultation with your wider teams, run these options past each employee to ask them how they would feel about working within the above three scenarios. How have they felt about WFH? Did they enjoy it, or now that the novelty has worn off, would they prefer to be back in the office? Did they have access to the full suite of tools and the preferred environment they needed to be able to perform their job to the best of their ability? A survey may help you to get a read on the overall feelings about returning to the office. There are free ones online that you can download to help you collate these insights and start designing your office transformation accordingly, or enlist the help of an external workplace advisor like Businessary. A roster will need to be drafted, taking into account staggered entry and exits. Perhaps desk space can be completely stripped out, to allow for an office purely comprised of collaborative spaces – board rooms, breakout areas and creativity labs with stimulating design.
The biggest change in the shift to a remote first working environment is Workplace Culture. Often defined as the personality of your workplace, it combines company values, beliefs, behaviours and employee attitudes. Having good culture at work means happier, more engaged and more productive employees, who are more likely to stay. It means they become a team of advocates which helps you attract great talent in the future. Ultimately it boosts profits too - great culture has been proven to increase company revenue up to four times.
But the new working model has presented difficulties in maintaining workplace culture. Having a traditional office environment provides a physical space for the company values to be exemplified and it is much easier to communicate intangible concepts like ‘compassion’, in a face to face situation. Similarly, keeping an eye on employee attitudes and behaviours is much more straightforward when they are sitting right in front of you. Efforts to maintain workplace culture in the post-Covid era need to be recharged and rethought in order to define a fresh new approach. Start by designing a few months’ worth of fun and low-cost initiatives that can be organised remotely, in a hybrid of home and office, or fully on site - that will foster inclusion, drive a sense of community, and delight your employees.
Digital transformation has been building at an increasing rate, which has peaked throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Remote work has meant that all employees have been forced to adopt new technologies and get comfortable with new modes of working in order to do their jobs. The upshot is that companies can leverage these new skills in order to help them continue to foster workplace culture. Human Resource Information Systems mean that regular check-ins can be scheduled via video conferencing using online performance review tools. Live Chat streams continue to foster a sense of community. Feedback forums ensures the lines of communication are always open between peers and Managers, and automated email surveys ensure that regular pulse checks are taken. Digital HR tools can help you continue to cultivate inclusion and a feeling of psychological safety for employees with regular check-ins, providing you a 360 degree view into how they are doing at a glance, keep an eye on trends and be notified of potential risk areas so that you can act on them before they become problematic for the wider business. Accessing people data helps show you how to transform them into a strategic path for growth - providing valuable insight that will help your business grow, operating better than ever before.
In times of physical and emotional stress, it is the responsibility of all employers to help their people manage. During stressful times or in peak workloads, the risk of burnout and churn can cause catastrophic effects and it is in the interests of business leaders to be aware of the risks and do what they can to help stay on top of it. Overworked permanent staff can disengage and become toxic within their teams as resentment builds. Easing unreasonable workloads with temporary staff will show them you care and give them the time they need to perform their jobs properly. Start by analysing workloads to predict peaks and ensure you’re able to access the right support when you need it most. On-demand staffing platforms like Weploy help businesses of all sizes access skilled temporary staff, with speed, efficiency and compliance.
As we face a future of vastly different working models, environments and team structures - building a winning workplace culture now will help your company navigate the post-COVID era. The smartest leaders will be thinking about how to use the power of tech to help them guide their people through meaningful change in 2021 and drive great culture in a remote first environment.
TONY: What does the future of work mean to you?
RUBY: The future of work basically comes down to freedom of choice and flexibility. It’s actually this whole new unlocked generation where people should feel free to set up their working lives to suit them. I think it rolls into the gig economy, being able to represent different employer brands, and it being actually quite normal. It gives us, as individuals, freedom of choice in how we want to work and who we want to work for.
The Team Xero value proposition to the candidate market is a strong one: we believe that you can come and do the best work of your life at Xero. And you can do so at a business that:
One of the hurdles we face, which is actually more of an opportunity, is making sure we are truly capitalising on the above messaging and amplifying it to our target candidate markets.
Whilst we have a strong value proposition – very helpful for any inhouse talent team – we also have our challenges too, primarily around scale. In a relatively short period of time, we’ve evolved from a beautiful accounting software start-up to a global small business platform. In the process, we’ve acquired a rapidly expanding customer base and built a geographically dispersed workforce of 2,500 employees. There will always be competing interests in a hyper-growth environment, so one of the main challenges for our our Talent Experience team relates to prioritisation of our hiring. Have we nailed that yet? No, but it’s something we’re continuing to work on in conjunction with Xero’s leaders.
We use a range of tools and technologies to aid our recruitment process here at Xero (there are some variances by region). As we continue to evolve our TX function, we’ll keep reviewing both existing and new tech to best support our efforts across employer branding and attraction, assessment, background checking, on-boarding and talent pooling. We also consider how tech can help us work best with candidates, hiring managers and each other.
While tech is the ultimate enabler, we believe it will always remain human interactions that drive the best outcomes.
From a gender diversity perspective, we work with some amazing partners like Work 180, Code Like a Girl, Tech Girls Movement, Girl Geek Dinners and Ladies that UX to showcase working life at Xero and highlight the opportunities for women in technology. In addition to our internal programs (part-time developer programs, career change programs etc.), these partnerships have achieved some fantastic results for our workforce composition and the communities that we support.
We also recognise that gender is only one element of diversity. Indeed, our hiring practices, ways of working, internal education and workshops and external partnership development need to reflect the diversity of our 1.8 million subscribers. We will continue to value and embrace diverse experience, skills and perspectives so that we can work better together and continue to innovate for our customers, partners, and the communities we interact with every day.
We view hiring as a partnership between hiring managers and the TX team. In our opinion, the key to a good hiring outcome is complete clarity on the position, the candidate requirements and the hiring process itself. We also encourage hiring managers to constantly be out there meeting good candidates in-market and thinking about succession planning for their teams (whether they’re hiring for a vacancy or not).
We make a conscious effort to lay all of our cards on the table. Nobody likes finding skeletons in the closet when joining a new business, so we go out of our way to be really transparent about both the benefits and the challenges of working at Xero. Naturally, some of the challenges don’t align well with everyone: Working at Xero is fast paced, constantly changing and requires working with ambiguity, and we call that out throughout the recruitment process. But for those who are up for the challenge and bring a growth mindset and bias for results, the opportunities are second to none when it comes to working with amazing people, evolving team Xero capabilities, and solving problems that have a positive impact on the lives of our customers across the globe.
Six months ago, I reached a massive milestone in my life when my wife excitedly ran down the stairs to show me a positive pregnancy test. Discovering our first child would be arriving in February 2020, we were beyond excited. We were also a little apprehensive about how this massive change would affect our lives. Going through the experience for the first time, we knew we’d have to learn a tonne of new things about how to care for a baby. Sleeping patterns would change and significant chunks of time would be dedicated to caring for our son. One of the biggest worries I had was balancing my role at Weploy alongside my new role as a Father. Marian Baird, professor of Gender and Employment Relations at the University of Sydney, said almost all eligible women take paid parental leave compared to about 25 to 30% of men. But, as 50% parent to my unborn son, not 25-30%, I had some concerns about my entitlements and how it would impact my career.