Of all the changes that have impacted our workplaces during the pandemic, one of the most significant is that employees have secured autonomy from their jobs.
Whether workers or their loved ones have been directly impacted by the health crisis, or they have come to the realisation that there was a better way of working all along, this year has been a wakeup call; that health and families come before all else, and work needs to be on employees’ terms. They will no longer stick with an employer that compromises their values and autonomy.
A recent Skillsoft study which examined employee expectations in a post-COVID workplace across APAC found that 9 in 10 people wanted at least one COVID-19 practice adopted permanently in their day-to-day lives. On average, just 11 percent of respondents are happy to return to how things were. The top practices that workers want to see introduced permanently are flexibility in their working hours (59 percent) and working from home (58 percent). Almost half want more time dedicated to their physical and mental well-being (47 percent) and increased family time (47 percent), while 34 percent are interested in more online learning and professional development opportunities.
Whether it is deciding when and how to work, prioritising family time over work and travel, concern for personal health, or taking charge of their own career path, we are witnessing the emergence of a more inward mindset among employees.
Here is what we learned about people in and looking for work across APAC, and what is going to tick their boxes for employment in future.
Become wellbeing & family first company
A key finding of the study was that the APAC workforce appears more concerned about their own well-being than that of their company, with 27 percent of workers ranking health and safety as the number one issue they want business leaders to be prioritising. Other important issues for workforces in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia are job security and work/life balance with more than half (56 percent respectively) ranking these issues in their top three to be prioritised. Only 12 percent rank innovation among their top three.
It is vital that leaders and HR teams maintain an open dialogue with staff about the policies that will support their wellbeing and be intentional in how these are delivered. In our business we have recently expanded our benefits in APAC to include financial support mechanisms, Care Packs (including gifts for kids and family time like UberEats vouchers), a STEPtember CSR initiative that includes virtual workouts, access to an Employee Assistance Program, an extra Friday off every quarter, paid COVID leave, flexible work hours (this existed before but has been extended to encourage more time during the day for family and exercise), virtual lunches and mindfulness sessions, and more. We acknowledge the value of these initiatives and intend to keep them beyond the pandemic.
Diversity on workers’ wish lists
Globally the pandemic has also brought many of society’s inequities to the fore, and in some cases given people a taste of how things can work better. Across APAC there is a strong push for policies and practices that promote greater gender, age, and racial balance.
The report showed the top two issues the APAC workforce wants their employers to support the most are offering flexible work for parents of both genders (38 percent) and hiring and supporting more older workers (33 percent). Other top line issues include ensuring equal gender representation on the leadership team, supporting equal maternity and paternity leave, and monitoring, reporting, and working to close the gender pay gap (25 percent respectively). An effort to address expectations of diversity and inclusion must be multi-faceted, from hiring to education, culture, and formal policies. This includes having the right HR technology to support and engage the workforce on a whole new level.
Learning and development vital to recovery
While the research demonstrated that employees want greater support from their employers to upskill and reskill in future, the data tells us that employees have well and truly taken this upon themselves already. Amid the pandemic, Skillsoft has seen a 351 percent increase in content accessed since March and a 258 percent increase in the learning hours consumed across its platforms. Meanwhile, the number of courses that learners around the world use to upskill and reskill has increased by 55 percent, with off the charts growth in courses related to perseverance and resilience, working virtually, Agile Practices, management, online collaboration tools and stress management.
One of the best ways that organisations can engage employees is by putting the individual in charge of their professional development and mapping out a growth plan collaboratively. What have they been learning in their own time that could be supported and extended upon? Now that the world of work is changing for them, how has this altered their outlook of what is possible, their goals, their role and in turn, their views of the education or skills they might require?
The impact of remote working and the call for employers to do more in the workplace is a message that must be heard. Everything from hiring, to online learning and employee benefits, will need to have a prominent flexibility and diversity focus and be centred on individual goals to meet the social and cultural demands that have been accelerated during 2020.