Whether we were ready for it or not, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought on the most
significant workplace reinvention in generations. For some organisations, the changes are
incremental. For others, the shift is seismic.
The way we work, where we work, and how we interact have all been radically altered and
many organisations are taking on the learnings, recalibrating how they will operate in the
future. From the roles of the workplace and technology, to how and where their staff work
At the same time, many employees are re-evaluating what’s most important to them and
the expectations they have of employers. Many have not only experienced a different way
of working, but have also developed new perspectives on some aspects of work that they
may never have had a reason to consider before.
As the system-wide shock abates and organisations start implementing new ways of
working, they also need to re-think their talent proposition. Every aspect of work has
undergone significant change in the first half of 2020, and organisations need to consider
how employee expectations have changed.
We’ve outlined some of the things we believe may need an organisational re-think:
Re-thinking the priority of Health and Safety
While responsible organisations always take the health and safety of their employees
seriously, in our experience, it rarely features in employees’; top priorities when considering
a role. The list is most often dominated by factors such as career prospects, interesting and
meaningful work, and work/life balance. For many people, especially in office-based roles,
(compared to say manufacturing or mining), there has never been a reason to consider
health and safety as a driver of employer choice. The risks were deemed minimal, and there
was a reasonable assumption that the employer would do everything required to ensure
their health and safety.
The advent of the coronavirus pandemic has shown that every workplace can pose new and
far more significant risks to our health and the health of our families than we could have
imagined only five months ago.
In the future, current and prospective employees will have valid expectations that the
businesses they work for will take even greater precautions to protect their wellbeing and
livelihood – job security being a direct casualty of the coronavirus health crisis. As such, its
importance within their employment priorities may increase.
The ability to demonstrate and articulate the value that the employer places on the health
and wellbeing of its employees may become a far more essential component of the
employer’s value proposition to the talent market.
Re-thinking the workplace
The shift to remote working for many office-based roles has highlighted that the existing
paradigm of centralised offices may have run its course. The repercussions of this change
are far-reaching. It will impact public infrastructure, town planning and office design. It will
affect how businesses are structured and where they are located. And it will change the way
teams work together, and how corporate culture is manifested.
For many businesses, the imposition of working from home is an extension of their flexible
working policies. For others, it’s a foray into a whole new way of working and managing.
For employees who are used to commuting and working in centralised offices, working from
home is a new experience. For some, it has provided new opportunities and improved their
work/life balance. For others, whose living arrangements don’t suit working from home, it
has proved more burdensome. Whether it’s lack of a dedicated workspace, having children
at home, or aspects like flat sharing, working from home doesn’t suit everybody.
To meet talent’s expectations in the future, offering flexible working will be more critical
and more commonplace – it won’t be possible to just go back to the old ways. But flexible
working also needs to accommodate people who can’t or would prefer not to work from
home. The key word is flexible – it can’t just be one or the other, and may include options
like suburban hubs rather than CBD offices.
Just as businesses provide the necessary spaces, tools and technology to work effectively
and safely within the office, talent will have the reasonable expectation that these will be
provided when they work from home. Organisations that don’t approach the work-from-
home environment as consciously as they do the office environment may find themselves
losing talent to those that do.
While these are essential considerations for roles that suit remote working, there are many
roles in industries like manufacturing and retail where remote working isn’t feasible. For
these roles, health, safety, and workplace wellbeing take on a new, broader meaning.
Organisations will need to re-think the measures they implement to help support these
aspects of the workplace. These measures may require a wholesale change to workplaces
where there are large onsite workforces and customers.
Over the many EVP projects we’ve undertaken, a consistent finding is that, while people and
culture may not be a leading driver in the decision to join an organisation, it is a primary
driver for deciding to stay. (In a recent project for a global healthcare company, ‘team and
people’ was consistently ranked as the 1st or 2nd most important reason to stay).
Like any culture, organisational culture is a living, evolving entity. It is reliant on human
interaction and on the rituals within the organisation. Many of these are informal and
spontaneous, from Monday kickoffs, to hallway chats and Friday drinks. For many, the
move to remote working changes the rhythm of the working day and week and removes
many of the in-person interactions.
In an increasingly virtual, less in-person environment, organisational culture will remain an
important driver of employee retention and market differentiation. Businesses will need to
pause and rethink and find new ways to replace and supplement the existing moments
artefacts and events that build and nurture their distinct culture.
Re-thinking teamwork and collaboration
Like culture, the team that people work with and how they work together are key reasons
people stay at an organisation. For many, teamwork and collaboration have always been in
person. As organisations change how they operate in the wake of coronavirus, some, if not
all, of these interactions may become virtual.
For organisations where teamwork and collaboration are critical components of their ability
to attract and retain talent, they need to invest in new ways to foster and support these
ways of working. While the way people collaborate may change, it will be essential to
ensure that people still feel connected and supported by their colleagues and by
The quality of an organisation’s leadership and management have always been vital criteria
for talent. At times like the present, when we are all facing new and unforeseen challenges,
the quality and type of leadership demonstrated is paramount. As shown by the success
and esteem gained by some global leaders, talent will respect and respond to leaders that
show decisiveness, clarity and empathy, and that communicate openly and honestly.
While this is not necessarily new news, demonstrating these leadership attributes will be
even more critical as businesses deal with the social, health and economic impact of
coronavirus and its aftermath.
Within many corporates, the potential to work in other locations, interstate and abroad, is
an enticing component of the value proposition. It represents an opportunity to learn and
grow professionally and personally, engaging with new cultures and experiences.
With mobility opportunities currently severely curtailed, the differentiation and appeal
these experiences offered have been significantly flattened. Organisations need to promote
other compelling local aspects of their proposition to help retain and attract talent that may
have been motivated by career mobility.
Potentially of greater significance is that working abroad may have lost its appeal with parts
of the talent audience. What has been considered an exceptional opportunity may, in the
future, be seen as an unwanted obligation. Employers may need to reconsider how they
incentivise their people to take on roles that have, until now, been highly desired and
oversupplied with candidates.
The coronavirus pandemic has dulled the competitive advantage that some of the more
incidental benefits and perks offered in the war for talent. Whether it is the quality and
design of the workspace, facilities such as gyms and cafeterias, free snacks and breakfasts or
Friday drinks, remote working has rendered them moot. And for the near future at least, the
appeal of shared facilities such as office kitchens, cafes and gym facilities may cool
If these aspects have been important elements in the employee proposition, new ways to
deliver these need to be incorporated into the delivery of the employee value proposition.
As the WSJ reports, businesses are finding new ways to provide these aspects. These include
new staff options such as virtual gym and mindfulness classes and home delivery snack
The coronavirus pandemic has been the catalyst for many organisations to re-think the way
they operate, and for many people to reconsider what’s important to them in their roles
Developing and delivering the employee value proposition is always ongoing. The
coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting changes in how businesses operate, offer a timely
inflection point to rethink the offer your business makes to existing and potential talent, and
how you will deliver it.
If you’d like to discuss how your business is adapting to a Coronavirus world and how it’s
affecting your Employee Proposition, or would like some support, get in touch today.