Pandemic May Make Remote Work, Other Perks Permanent

Pandemic May Make Remote Work, Other Perks Permanent

Survey: Competition for talent makes COVID-19 employee programs hard to abandon
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All around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the workplace — and those changes could become permanent, according to a new survey of hiring managers.

As companies chase an ever-shrinking pool of talent to staff key positions, managers find themselves needing to adapt to a new normal of remote working, wellness programs and diversity initiatives.

And according to the annual Talent Trends report from human resources service provider Randstad Sourceright, these changes are happening across many industries and geographies.

Where has all the talent gone?

Even before the coronavirus crisis cast its shadow over the world, finding key skills was a problem for hiring managers in a wide variety of industries.

Of those taking part in the sixth annual Talent Trends survey, 40% said the scarcity of talent had "either made a negative impact or been one of their organization’s biggest pain points." That marked the highest percentage of those responding this way in five years' of surveys, according to Randstad.

At the same time, the executives and human resource managers questioned were willing to help bridge this gap, as 92% said employers "should be responsible for reskilling workers."

In fact, the survey found 1 in 5 said their company had done just that, providing staff training at some point over the previous year.

The office comes home, as workers seek flexibility

It’s no secret that the crisis has forced a massive proportion of the workforce to do their jobs from home.

According to the Talent Trends report, roughly 50% of permanent employees are now working remotely, compared to 26% before the coronavirus outbreak. Likewise, 44% of temporary workers clocked in from home, up from 28% pre-pandemic.

Yet even once the health crisis does finally recede, remote work may be here to stay. A full 80% of respondents said they would consider implementing some kind of work-from-home policy permanently.

The reason for this isn’t necessarily about saving on office rent — 64% of those surveyed said "flexible working arrangements" such as remote options were "important to talent attraction." A separate survey from December backs this up, reporting that 62% of remote employees said the ability to work from home would influence whether they would join an organization.

As for whether companies are getting their money’s worth from remote workers, most of those surveyed in the Talent Trends report felt confident they were. Specifically, 69% said their staff was "as productive or more productive" when working remotely, while 31% said they were less productive.

Data seems to back up the idea that remote employees are generally hard-working. Randstad cited Harvard Business School research showing that the average workday rose by more than 8% (or more than 48 minutes) at the start of the pandemic. Likewise, another recent study found almost 70% of remote staff are working weekends at least some of the time.

Other perks could become more common

Remote work isn’t the only benefit that looks likely to stick around as employers compete for skilled workers.

The Talent Trends report found 62% of the hiring managers surveyed believed having a "wellness program is extremely or very important to attracting talent," while 59% said having "a family-first culture" was also key.

Similarly, 47% said they were "investing in technology to improve the talent experience at work."

But, as the study noted, one of the most important needs for those charged with finding talent was establishing "a robust diversity and inclusion strategy."

Among respondents, 80% said diversity and inclusion was "extremely" or "very" important, and 68% said their company already had such a policy in place. A further 27% said they planned to develop a diversity program in the future.

The push for a more diverse workforce isn’t surprising, given that a survey last fall found almost 7 in 10 members of Generation Z (those born after 1996) saw diversity as the single most important factor when looking for an employer.

Methodology: Human resources service provider Randstad Sourceright conducted its surveys for the sixth annual Talent Trends report during October to December 2020, interviewing 850 C-suite and human capital leaders in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries, Poland, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S.