The memes, themes, and trends below are not new or shocking. They are the culmination of years of experiments, failed attempts, new technologies, and evolving markets. All of these were going on even before the pandemic, but none of them had the importance, universal adoption, and acceptance that they do today. I hope it is helpful to put them into perspective and recognize how much they have changed the face of employment and recruitment.
#1. Health and Happiness- Beyond Food & Gyms
Health and happiness at work is a meme that has been around for a while. A meme is defined as an idea or behavior that becomes a fad and spreads by imitation and word-of-mouth from organization to organization and person to person without much effort.
Before the Coronavirus, large organizations offered lavish cafeterias, gourmet coffee bars, gyms, massages, meditation, yoga lessons, and other perks to improve employee happiness.
Once a few firms such as Yahoo, Google, and Facebook started offering these, the idea spread rapidly to the point that even startups with a handful of employees were offering whatever they could think of, from ping pong tables to catered lunches in the hope that productivity and innovation would improve.
Perks are Not the Key
We know from lots of research that happy people tend to be healthier and more productive than unhappy people. But the key to happy and engaged employees is meaningful work, good working conditions, and empowerment and not the perks.
Now that we are deep into the mental depression and lack of social connection caused by the Coronavirus, health and happiness have become the key attractors and retention tools for organizations.
But this meme needs to be more focused on what really matters.
Innovative organizations encourage brainstorming and get employees involved in suggesting ways to improve the way work gets done. They empower employees to set their own goals, develop their own work schedules, and offer counseling and training programs. They also encourage employees to engage in community and social projects and get together online for coffee chats or happy hours.
#2. Everyone an Entrepreneur
I was writing about Generation Y seeking work flexibility as far back as 2005. This theme has been prominent for decades. But, organizations were slow to allow people to work remotely or have flexible working hours and days. There was a huge fear that people would goof off and not focus on work. Most organizations focused on paying for time rather than for productivity or results.
The pandemic has strengthened the entrepreneurial spirit. Many employees are now able to choose personal working hours and focus on achieving goals and not on watching the clock. There is a new emphasis on internal mobility and on letting employees contribute to a project whenever the project matches their skills and interests. Flexible, easy internal mobility and empowerment are the most significant levers of innovation and productivity.
This trend, driven mostly by this pandemic, directly contributes to employee engagement and happiness. But there needs to be more focus on permanent policy and corporate culture changes that will remain even after the Coronavirus has passed.
#3. Robotics & Augmented Reality
Automation will replace many jobs while creating new ones. This is a fact-based trend that has been researched and documented by organizations ranging from universities like Oxford to MIT to consulting firms like McKinsey and KPMG.
The reality is that routine work, both physical and administrative, is already partially automated through software and robots. A large portion of recruitment is being automated, including sourcing, screening, assessment, administrative activities, onboarding, and analytics. This trend will accelerate during 2021-22, leading to most traditional recruiting roles in large corporations disappearing. Small firms will lag far behind, but their hiring volume is small. New roles such as that of talent advisor or architect have already emerged shifting recruiting to a more strategic level.
The best organizations are proactive and upfront about what is happening and what will be automated. They have developed retraining programs, apprenticeships and look for opportunities for those that will be displaced.
#4. The Power of Video and Virtual Everything
Ever since the pandemic arrived, video has become a lifeline for recruiting. The use of video is a trend accelerated by the pandemic to a level not really imagined. It forced most white-collar work to go virtual and forced even reluctant recruiters to do video interviews. Coupled with A.I., video is being used to assess candidates and analyze facial and verbal communication for culture fit. We are all getting used to communicating, learning, socializing, and this is a trend that will continue even after the end of the pandemic. While moving to a new platform or way of work is extremely hard, returning to the old ways is almost impossible. No one would go back to Rolodexs (even if you know what those are) or to paper memos. We are now in the age of video, and virtual media, and forward-looking firms will embrace it and continue to refine its use.
What memes, themes, or trends would you add? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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