Covid19 created the ultimate corporate culture shock
Digitalization

Covid-19 created the ultimate corporate culture shock

Travelling is exhilarating. It offers you new world views, increases your cultural awareness, and lets you explore the unfamiliar. But it can also leave you feeling lost.

17 December 2020

Working remotely can be a remarkably similar experience. For instance, we were forced to adapt quickly to an unfamiliar environment when Covid-19 arrived. There was also no time to blame technology, nor be able to connect remotely. We were also expected to conduct video conference calls seamlessly with our colleagues from home.

Unspoken rules were instantly established. Screen backgrounds on Zoom calls suddenly mattered. You had to give the illusion of being dressed well, at least above the waistline. And your living room needed to be tidy, at least within camera shot.

This was the biggest work-life experiment in human history. We shouldn’t underestimate how significant this is.

If there wasa quote for 2020, it would be, "You're on mute".

The office culture disappeared

Some of us felt lost.We couldn't get together with our colleagues and meet face-to-face. We were surrounded by a sea of career uncertainty.

In an office, being visible is valuable. Management can physically see you working and measure the value you have as a skilled employer. You’re more able to demonstrate your skill set directly to them which gives you job security.

Consequently, the pandemic created the ultimate corporate culture shock. And the repercussions from this are now being felt in the recruitment industry.

Candidates are now less likely to move

The dramatic change in corporate culture has reduce the willingness of some candidates to consider moving roles. Changing jobs is risky. When you first start a new position it’s important to leave a good impression. That means being visible and being seen to work hard. For skilled employees this requires voracious networking within the company and hard work.

If you join a company in a remote setting, then showing off these attributes is much harder. It’s difficult to be visible if you are not physically in the office. Consequently, there has been a reluctance by some candidates to move because in their minds it’s just too risky right now.

Companies are also hiring differently

Covid’s corporate culture shock is also changing the way companies hire. They now have to manage a remote workforce, therefore the qualities they look for in a candidate need to reflect this new environment.

For instance, being a good cultural fit within the office environment is now less important than being able to work autonomously and without close supervision. Moreover, these changes in how we work are likely to persist long after the pandemic has passed. Therefore, recruitment is likely to have been permanently altered.

Companies are using new techniques to assess candidates. For instance, we are seeing the increasing use of psychometric testing to evaluate the personalities of those being hired. We are also seeing the increasing use of video conference interviews. This offers a lot more flexibility, as first round interviews could be carried out very efficiently without the need to organise schedules and book meeting rooms.

The onboarding process has also change quite significantly. During the lockdown, those recruited before the hiring freeze kicked in, needed to be onboarded virtually. In some instances, laptops and other IT equipment were shipped directly to their homes.

Starting a new job remotely has its challenges

Working remotely can make it difficult to integrate. It takes longer because of the lack of face-to-face contact with your new colleagues. Typically, when you start a new role – especially if you are in a skilled position – being visible is very important. This is difficult to achieve if you are working from home.

The other issue is that companies may also favour existing employees over new hires. For instance, it’s cheaper to move employees from one department to another and have them reskilled. There is less risk in this approach because these employees already established and fit in with the corporate culture.

What does this mean for job candidates?

It’s all a matter of perspective. The pandemic has been hugely disruptive to our working lives and has completely change the hiring process. Jobs have been lost, yet new jobs have been created.

It’s true that companies will look for different characteristics in the candidates they hire. However, where there is change, there are also great opportunities. In this age of great disruption, being willing to move when others aren’t and being able to adapt, will propel your career forward.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

Follow Luca on LinkedIn