As a result of COVID-19, the whole mindset of business is evolving and the workplace will never be the same. None of us could have predicted the pace of the change, with developments that would have normally occurred over months and years taking place overnight. As Economist Shamubeel Eaqub explained in our recent webinar, we saw 40 years of thinking undone in just 40 days.
With so many changes happening in the New Zealand business world, and Technology in particular, what will this mean for the future and what trends are we likely to see in the coming months?
The Changing Face of Business
In the wake of COVID-19, businesses are embracing new ways of working and are looking for the talent they need to facilitate this. One of the biggest trends I’m seeing is accelerated digital transformation. Starting from around 2010, companies have become more and more digital, but many are still not able to rely solely on digital technology to do business. The rapid emergence of the pandemic forced organisations to figure out how to work and serve their customers entirely remotely in a very short space of time – a massive transformation that, under normal circumstances, would have taken place over years, not days.
When the lockdown was announced, we saw that some big companies were already prepared to support a virtual workforce. However, they lacked specialists who could set up computers and deploy systems virtually to enable both new and existing staff to work from home. This is particularly important when onboarding – new employees couldn’t go and pick up a laptop, but the setup could be done remotely to enable them to get started.
Similarly, with a significant spike in the use of video apps such as Zoom, MS Teams and Skype in place of in-person meetings, there is a growing need for IT professionals who have the expertise to provide support, troubleshooting and access to these platforms.
As a result of the move away from face-to-face interactions, companies are having to reconsider the way they measure productivity and performance because they can no longer monitor their employees 100% of the time. Previously, we would have considered the person who arrived at the office first and left last each day to be the most committed. In this new era of work, managers must instead focus on KPIs and work delivered to assess performance. This outcome-driven approach is overtaking the initial distrust and uncertainty many employers felt, making remote working more measurable and sustainable for the long term.
Rethinking the Nature of Work
Prior to COVID-19, working from home was considered to be a luxury by some, but the pandemic has changed this mindset out of necessity and employers are now rethinking what their workforces look like. I have already started seeing companies becoming more open to offering flexible working arrangements, along with a significant increase in trust and empathy.
Before the lockdown, I had been working with a candidate who’d been having difficulty finding a role that would suit his needs. As a single father based outside of Auckland, he wasn’t able to commute to Auckland every week, which substantially impacted his options when job searching. However, with the lockdown forcing many businesses to work remotely, companies are becoming more receptive to working around candidates and he was able to find a position that accommodated his commitments. This is a scenario we are seeing more and more of and I expect it to continue in the future.
Likewise, the philosophy around work/life balance is evolving – due to COVID-19 and the challenges of keeping your personal and professional lives separate when working from home, we now have to think of it as a work/life “blend” instead. Many senior managers are doing more to support individuals’ needs and help them do their best work, with some companies even introducing scheduled slots for exercise, meals and family time during the workday to support their teams when working remotely.
One of the most notable developments from this period is that the nature of the workplace has changed dramatically. Instead of a traditional office space, many of us are now working at our dining room tables, in our bedrooms or even in our children's playrooms. We have learned that almost anywhere can be a functional workspace, provided that you have the right tools.
Reshaping IT in a COVID-19 World
While the IT sector was impacted by the lockdown, it was not affected to the degree that other industries have been. We saw a number of roles get put on hold during Alert Level 4, but many of them are now moving again and recruitment has resumed for a lot of our clients. In the beginning, onboarding (rather than hiring itself) was the primary concern for many employers, but they have since developed robust plans for onboarding remotely and have brought in people to facilitate this process – this will likely continue as companies further adapt to the current climate.
With the government announcing that New Zealand’s border will remain closed for the foreseeable future, there will be a significant decrease in the number of skilled migrants entering the country. On average, there are around 14,000 jobs in the Auckland IT sector alone each year. Typically, we will see 5,000 new graduates and 5,000 candidates coming from overseas to fill these roles, leaving a shortage of about 4,000 candidates. Due to travel restrictions, there may be only 1,000 new skilled migrants coming in, meaning that many gaps will remain.
As a result of this, there is a relatively positive outlook for IT professionals who have lost jobs, with plenty of opportunities available. At the same time, employers will be more open to hiring candidates who may not tick every box but have relevant experience and transferrable skills. There may also be a chance for people to upskill within their current organisations, gaining experience in technologies/areas that can be applied to new jobs.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has taught us a lot, and the ripple effect of the trends that have emerged from it will likely be with us for a long time. As we begin to approach the other side of this crisis and look ahead to our “new normal”, my advice is to think outside the box, be flexible and, most importantly, do what you can to prepare for next time.
To discuss any of the above trends or for support with navigating the Technology & Transformation recruitment process during this time, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.