We recently held our final webinar for the year to launch our annual Beyond Recruitment Economic & Labour Report, and it was incredibly insightful. The event solidified for me how lucky I am to do what I do and to be able to have the conversations I have with business and IT leaders. It’s a privilege to be at the forefront of what’s happening in New Zealand, as it’s happening.
As I discussed in my previous blog, it’s been very clear to me for several months that the economic and cultural impact of COVID-19 has been uneven when comparing the urban centres, like Auckland and Wellington, to regional hubs like Tauranga and Hamilton. The regions fared far better, with much higher business confidence than their urban centre counterparts.
I’ve been having a lot of intriguing conversations with leaders around what’s in store for 2021 and how businesses can best prepare. Are they feeling cautious or optimistic about kicking off projects in the New Year? Where are they going to be investing when it comes to technology – data, cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, work-from-home infrastructure, customer data platforms like SAP, Oracle Salesforce? How are they reducing costs? How are they investing in the customer experience? How are they innovating purchasing activity? Are they consolidating suppliers? Do they expect fewer exports while the global economies are still feeling the economic impact of COVID-19, or do they expect these global economies to open up and spending to surge as vaccines come to market? And, critically, how are they investing in the employee experience?
New Zealand has fared extremely well amid COVID-19 when compared to other nations. Unemployment has peaked but it is improving. Several sectors have seen strong growth, with the strongest growth taking place in the private sector. As Economist Shamubeel Eaqub revealed in the webinar, the volume of job ads in NZ for November is up by 5% when compared to last year, whereas the UK is down 50%.
However, this is still an unpredictable economy and there are still a lot of unanswered questions. The volatility in the market as a result of COVID-19 is clouding the future for businesses and making it difficult to plan for 2021. Company culture, organisational cohesion and professional resilience have never been as important as they are today, and businesses that understand this will be in the best position to thrive.
Your company’s culture, values and work practices are essential to you gaining and retaining access to the skills your business needs to grow in 2021. Work-from-home is the ideal way to work for some, but for others, it just isn’t suitable – for example, those early in their career who need the wisdom and guidance of managers, mentors and co-workers, or those who just don’t have a suitable place to work from home.
Businesses will need to understand what culture, values and practices work for their business or particular teams, and what don’t. In addition to COVID-19, there have been minimum wage increases, holiday leave/sick leave increases, and new policies around health and safety. Businesses that aren’t willing to improve the working conditions, culture and career growth opportunities for their staff risk missing out on talent in a labour short market.
There is no promise of borders opening in the near future. One of the most shocking things pointed out by Shamubeel in the webinar is that even with our borders shut for the last year, not only is our economy surviving but some sectors are even growing! This could drastically improve the work conditions and prospects of entry-level roles as a result. Shamubeel predicts it could spell the end for some businesses operating on the marginal outskirts, but it won’t end these industries as a whole.
In 2021, your business will need to find a balance between working from home and working in the office – and there won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. This will allow employers to compete for talent in a new way, where candidates attracted to working from home will be drawn to one company and those drawn to working in the office or a mix of both might be drawn to another. This is why it’s essential you establish your culture, values and work practices so that you can communicate the right message and attract the right people for your business.
The notion of team cohesion has been an important topic for decades, with a plethora of knowledge concerning its role in team and organisational effectiveness. Now more than ever, your employees need to feel that they are really part of the team and working towards shared goals that they are fully invested in. A group is characterised by the social cohesion and interaction of its members, however, extra effort is required to encourage team cohesion when you have a distributed workforce. Team cohesion is important and is positively linked to performance, and it can be measured at both the individual level and at the team level through one-to-ones and employee surveys.
Living in these unprecedented times with an uncertain year ahead, resilience and flexibility will be key to growth in 2021. Your businesses might be moving into the new year with a smaller budget and fewer resources than previously anticipated. While you should be careful your team aren’t burning out, employees should be encouraged and rewarded for being flexible and taking on new responsibilities.
Your business might need to put a project on hold and move that project team onto something else. This might require retraining and taking on new tasks that they haven’t been responsible for previously. Your organisation’s culture and the cohesion within the team, combined with professional resilience, should see the team continue to move forward and thrive even if 2021 does decide to throw a spanner in the works.
Borders might not open until the second half of 2021 or beyond and the labour shortage will continue to put pressure on the market. The government will likely continue to encourage businesses to improve work practices and make their vacancies more attractive to local workers. Work-from-home arrangements will have a role in many organisations moving forward and will need to be balanced with each business’ needs. Tourism may not recover for years, however, we do have sectors and regions that are experiencing strong economic growth.
So, despite the general perception of 2020, the situation is not all doom and gloom, and 2021 is teeming with opportunity for your business to grow and reach new heights – but culture, cohesion and resilience will be the key to your success.
If you’re looking for high-quality Technology, Transformation and Digital talent, feel free to reach out to me – I’d be happy to help you find the people your business needs during this time