Flexibility, remote hiring and onboarding – are you ready?

By Alastair Pennie

Published on 08-12-2021


As lengthy lockdowns and restrictions ease across most of Australia and we edge closer to the New Year, many people are taking stock and re-evaluating aspects of their life and career. With some employers wanting to forget flexibility and snap back into the workplace, there is a growing disconnect between employer and employee expectations.

While many organisations are embracing the benefits of hybrid or remote work, others lag and lack plans for future flexibility. However flexibility and work-life balance are top of the list for most job seeker and employees, and are now viewed as a necessity rather than a nice-to-have perk.

Whether or not the situation will bubble over into a ‘Great Resignation’ in Australia remains to be seen, but early indications from LinkedIn showed workers changing jobs on the platform was 26% higher than pre-pandemic levels. With job market conditions seeing skills shortages in many areas, it’s a candidate’s market and as 2022 rolls around, we could be in for a ‘Great Reshuffle’ at the least.

Job tenure trends in Australia

Even prior to the pandemic, job tenure has been on the decline in Australia, sitting at 3.3 years nationally. As a result, businesses can lose money by not retaining their people and HR professionals are being forced to re-assess their hiring strategy for 2022.

Key focuses emerging for businesses in the approaching new year include remote hiring and onboarding, implementing strong retention strategies, and re-evaluating employee value propositions.

The real cost of employee turnover

Employee turnover causes a multitude of issues including financial and knowledge loss, difficulty finding replacements, and overall team morale being negatively affected. Not to mention the extra workload and burden on the remaining employees, which often results in the original issue re-occurring – people quitting their jobs.

The average cost of replacing talent ranges from one-half to two times of the annual salary, according to Forbes. And with high performers delivering approximately 400% more in productivity than the average employee, losing even a few of your star workers can have an astronomical impact on your bottom line.

It’s imperative for businesses to track key metrics to prevent this calamity hitting the company hard, and where it hurts!

  • Average employee tenure

  • Positions open, positions filled, and time to fill

  • Overall turnover rate

  • Average turnover due to promotions or transfers

If you are unsure of how much resignations are costing your company, here is a handy staff turnover calculator you can use.

Drivers of employee disconnection

The first part of tackling retention issues is understanding why people choose to stay in a job and why they end up leaving.

With work-life balance ranking as a top reason people leave a job, research also shows that employee disconnection can dissipate when employees are given autonomy and flexibility over where, when, and how much they work. Thus, to remain competitive, employers should consider different forms of flexibility, whether it be daily work hours, work location or the length of the work week.

But Aussie businesses aren’t starting from scratch in this regard. 44% of businesses have employees currently working from home, which is a 120% increase since pre-pandemic times, according to The Guardian.

Other reasons why people are leaving their jobs include employee satisfaction, sense of belonging, level of access to resources, and overall satisfaction with the working environment.

Interestingly, Slack’s Future Forum Pulse survey on the Great Resignation, found striking differences between the executive and employee experiences. The report says:

“Employees are more than four times more likely than executives to want to work remotely full-time. And yet the data also shows that the majority of executives are building return-to-the-office plans that favour the perspective of the C-suite over what employees say works best for them. What’s driving the disconnect?

This past quarter, as some companies ordered employees back to the office, executive “overall satisfaction with the working environment” rose 3% while non-executive employee satisfaction dropped 5% over survey results from June 2021.

Executives score 62% higher than non-executives for overall satisfaction—driven by flexibility (51% higher), sense of belonging (52% higher) and work-life balance (78% higher)—and a whopping 114% better on “feeling good about stress and anxiety.”

Hiring the right people

To keep up with global trends, Australian businesses have been forced to evolve and develop new jobs that didn’t exist before the pandemic. Already, nearly one-third of employees have experienced changed job requirements because of the pandemic, and the trend is expected to continue, according to RMIT.

Hiring managers need to be considered when recruiting for open positions or the risk of losing those people will increase. Starting with a current and thorough understanding of the job, the capabilities required, and skills needed to execute key tasks is fundamental.

Remote hiring is on the rise

Remote working isn’t the only trend on the rise when it comes to the digital transformations that have emerged during the pandemic. Standard hiring processes have also evolved rapidly. Remote hiring and onboarding have already started taking shape around the globe.

Whilst face-to-face interviewing and hiring is undoubtedly most hiring manager’s preference; remote hiring and onboarding is an undeniable trend that will likely remain into the future as part of hybrid and remote working.

Afterpay is one company that has already embraced change and Meahan Callaghan, Chief People Officer, offered words of wisdom to businesses struggling to grasp the concept of onboarding new employees remotely.

In a remote and hybrid workplace, it is critical to immerse your new starters into the culture and values of your organisation using technology to create human connections. Communicating at work in a more colloquial way, is one way to achieve that – sending gifs, reacting with emojis, and creating ‘virtual watercooler’ moments”, she said.

In early 2020, during pandemic lockdowns, whilst most Australian businesses were scratching their heads wondering how to navigate the unknown waters, Afterpay was carrying out an award-winning virtual onboarding strategy which saw 300 new team members being hired remotely. This was achieved while continuing to empower our 900 employees to connect, collaborate and work more efficiently across every department.

Feeling inspired? Keep reading to find out what a successful onboarding strategy looks like.

How to onboard and retain employees remotely

As a recruiter, I am often confronted with employers wanting to hold off on recruitment due to not being able to onboard people face-to-face. However, at Six Degrees Sydney, we onboarded several new employees during lockdowns.

While it’s not the ideal way to welcome someone to the team, we tweaked several aspects of the onboarding process to work in a virtual setting. First, we accepted the risks involved with hiring and onboarding remotely, such as new hires feeling disconnected from the team and culture, and the potential for crossed wires or miscommunication.

Importantly, our onboarding process starts from the moment we hire, through to their first day, into the first 6 weeks and 6 months. Rather than waiting until their first day to send out a laptop and login and hope for the best, the process is structured to include more than the basic job-related operational requirements.

We examined our onboarding process to see where we needed to switch things up to work remotely. Aspects such as welcoming new members into company meetings, having catch ups with other team members, and email communication were easily translated online and even improved, with the opportunity to meet people in other states via video now incorporated as virtual ‘vox pops’ to get to know our culture and way of doing things.

The onboarding process also includes several steps to get to know new starters, help them feel included, listened to, engaged, and valued. One exercise we included as part of remote onboarding helped us understand their preferred way of working, when they perform at their best and worst, and what they needed from their new job, to help us find common ground and improve the lines of communication. Teams would then get together for a discussion regarding the exercise to examine similarities and differences, which also helped create a feeling of unity and bonding.

Employee feedback has been positive surrounding the new ways of building connection remotely. Importantly, we are constantly reflecting on how we can improve aspects of remote engagement, belonging, and job satisfaction, not just with new starters, but to build into our culture and processes as we evolve into hybrid working.

Are you ready?

As organisations prepare to tackle the Great Resignation, rapidly changing recruitment trends, and unpredictable jobseeker behaviour, it’s important for employers to find the right balance or risk further staff turnover.

Read more on remote onboarding and what is on job seekers’ radars post-COVID.

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