With no end in sight for Greater Sydney’s stay-at-home orders and Melbourne recently clocking up more than 200 days across six periods of lockdown...
... many Australian workers have started new jobs from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s an unusual onboarding experience for anyone, but stranger still when you’re the head of people and culture. This was the situation I faced when I joined the Intuit Australia leadership team in April 2020. Having still only met a handful of colleagues face to face, I’ve had to build and nurture these relationships virtually.
But although working remotely has presented business leaders with challenges around maintaining a sense of connection and company culture, there are two sides to every coin. In this case, it has also opened up a new opportunity for dealing with a major problem – finding and retaining talent.
With international borders closed, many companies across industries are struggling to fill roles. This has been a real problem for local technology companies, and major industries like financial services with high demand for tech skills.
Rethink hiring strategies
The situation has caused rapid salary inflation, with the media reporting that software companies and major banks are offering generous packages to attract engineering talent. The ongoing shortage of skills exacerbated by the pandemic is a good motivation to rethink hiring strategies.
This has already proven a valuable strategic shift for our business. Intuit Australia is headquartered in Sydney but has used the current disruption to recruit talent in other locations for some functions. This has seen us hiring people in Adelaide and the Gold Coast who have no intention of relocating.
With international hiring likely to remain difficult for the foreseeable future, and hybrid working practices to be retained by many businesses when vaccination rates see lockdown restrictions eased, it’s time for employers to accelerate their thinking when it comes to building teams.
One of the most noticeable employment trends during the pandemic has been the relaxation of standard office hours. The nine-to-five routine has slowly been falling out of favour for years now, but the pace has quickened dramatically during the past 18 months.
Lean into flexibility
With people now so accustomed to building their working day around other life commitments, we’re seeing a growing number of people logging on and finishing earlier, or doing a couple of hours in the evening because they took an extended break during the day to do some exercise. Routines are more flexible for most of us and I’ve been spending more time in my garden.
This more fluid working day, and the fact that we’re now so used to collaborating remotely, opens up new talent pools. Will we see more businesses on the eastern seaboard hiring talent in South Australia, for example? Or the sea changers and tree changers who have abandoned city life?
Taking this a step further, is it worth exploring opportunities to hire in alternative locations? We have an emphasis on diversity at Intuit, and part of our strategy is hiring top talent, so there are obvious benefits to hiring anywhere we have a legal entity.
Having empathy for individual situations and offering flexible working arrangements to suit the needs of our employees opens us up to a much wider talent pool, and adding team members who start a couple of hours earlier or finish a couple of hours later, especially in customer-facing roles like sales or support is another plus.
We still have a lot to learn about managing remote teams, and wellbeing has to be the primary consideration, but expanding your talent reach could well be an unexpected benefit that comes out of the pandemic experience.