Company and team culture – those "doing the right thing" by their people – is a competitive advantage for employers and the most important factor for anyone looking for a new job, according to new research.
The findings are among a number of surprises from new research, called Reshaping the World of Work, commissioned by Frog Recruitment, which surveyed people across New Zealand and Australia in a wide range of industries.
It found that how companies treat their people, whether still employed or during the exit process as a result of pandemic restructuring, is crucial and that a good organisation that supports its staff will reap rewards long-term.
CDL Insight Consulting are change management and outplacement specialists supporting people made redundant, and General Manager Jane Kennelly says one of the surprises is a trend demonstrating a new currency in company reputations: those who treated their people right whether they were staying or being made redundant.
"It brought out those organisations that did really good things by their people and those organisations that just didn't understand the importance of their reputation through a very difficult phase for their people." she says.
"Outplacement…holds the hand of the individual and allows them to transition with good grace and dignity into a new life that's possibly unknown at the outset. Equally, those observing the process are looking at their employer and going, 'You know what? You're doing the right thing by these people and we feel good about you and we trust you; we trust you to do the right thing.
"We're fielding enquiries from people who are actually in very stable work at the moment, who are quite happy to leave that organisation because of the way they've treated their outgoing people."
Those people might go to a competing organisation and talk about "those blokes over the road", a competitive advantage given away.
Frog Recruitment's Managing Director, Shannon Barlow, says: "Many employees understood the realities of redundancy during these unprecedented work times but how it is handled, and how they deal with their people makes all the difference.
"We've found that the company or team culture is now the number one criteria for choosing a job whereas, if we go back a year or so, you would have seen more of those things like work/life balance."
"When you lose your job, there's a whole process that often goes on in someone's mind," says Kennelly. "They do lose their confidence; they do need a lot of support; they feel they have failed when this is actually nothing to do with them whatsoever. Once they're through that noise, one of the things that outplacement can really support them with is to prepare themselves to transition into looking for new work."
That work, as many have shown, can be far removed from the person's previous career, says Barlow: "We saw it…with the boom of e-commerce or within the restaurant and hospitality sector moving to deliveries, really changing their business and doing it quickly. The Kiwi ingenuity and spirit, it was great to see people being able to change and adapt and that's brought a real momentum through as well which is really great to see in New Zealand."
The survey was done at the start of lockdown in April 2020 and then again in August 2020, to see if sentiment had changed. It found many had suffered a downturn in mental wellbeing and an increase in burnout, due to lack of separation between work and home life during lockdown periods.
"I think this was a big surprise because there was some perception that, well, isn't everybody at home? They're missing the commute, they've got more free time," says Barlow. "But what we found is the pressure to have all hands on deck meant that people were expected to work longer hours, to keep everything afloat, and there was a lack of separation between work and home life."
Employers who found the right balance for staff, enjoyed increased productivity and positivity in company workflow.
There are signs that the job industry is improving, with employers returning to hiring more permanent staff over contractors; projects put on hold over lockdown are coming back on board.
"I wouldn't quite say it's a boom but there are definitely some really encouraging signs," says Barlow." We're seeing job numbers increase and, over the last few months, we're seeing those permanent roles come back and things placed on hold over lockdown, coming back on board as well".
But Kennelly warns employers not to get complacent after pivoting or restructuring – and says remembering to be human, and kind, is still key: "There can be complacency creep in, to think, 'Oh, well, we've gone through this place, we've kept who we can keep within the business; the work is done'. But it's ongoing and, obviously, that human touch and for people to feel like their best interests are being looked after is really crucial.
"I think the old adage of kindness pays dividends is very true; organisations with great trust, have built good performance – their people understand the direction."
See link to listen to podcast Ep. One: Putting Your People First as A Business Investment