What’s on the post-pandemic job-hunting checklist?

37 per cent of Australian workers cite flexibility as the critical factor in their search for a new job.

The past year has made many of us re-evaluate our priorities. This includes what we expect of our current job – and our next one. How has the job-hunting wish list changed for accounting and finance professionals?

There is one thing that Australian jobseekers want more than anything else – and it is not more pay. 

According to LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index, 37 per cent of Australian workers cite flexibility as the critical factor in their search for a new job, while 36 per cent nominate workplace culture. Just 23 per cent of surveyed workers give salary as the deciding factor in choosing a new role. 

The Gartner Global Talent Monitor 4Q20 reveals similar findings. Most respondents nominate work-life balance as both the primary reason they left a job and their top consideration when job hunting.  

“Jobseekers are looking for greater flexibility of work,” says Shiva Kumar, LinkedIn Australia & New Zealand’s head of brand marketing and communications. 

LinkedIn recently published its fifth annual Top Companies List, the 25 workplaces in Australia that offer employees the best opportunities for career growth. 

EY took out first place, with Optus parent company Singtel, Macquarie Group, medical device group ResMed and Commonwealth Bank rounding out the top five. 

Considerations around work-life balance, culture and commute times “are really important for employees, especially as they begin to return to office spaces after a year or so working from home,” says Kumar. 

“These companies are focusing on the wellbeing of their staff, offering greater flexibility and acknowledging that the pandemic had been challenging for a lot of working parents and women in particular.”

Julia Rozo is a talent acquisition partner at Citi Australia who has worked in recruitment for more than a decade. 

Rozo says that, before the pandemic, “flexibility was something that was a privilege for a few. It wasn’t the norm, unless you worked for a big company like CBA or Westpac”.

Requests for flexibility were often limited to parents and carers. Many staff were often put off by the prospect of awkward conversations with managers and workplace cultures that tacitly frowned upon flexible work arrangements, prioritising hours worked in the office over output. 

How things have changed. 

“People are asking for flexibility upfront,” says Rozo. “It’s not something they’re afraid of asking for anymore.” 

Australian workers, tired of long commutes and inevitable clashes between their professional and personal lives, are keen to limit their time in the office to one or two days per week and negotiate start and finish times that suit their lifestyle.

The rise in working from home has also resulted in more candidates applying for positions in remote locations, says Rozo. 

“A common view is, ‘If the role is in Melbourne and I’m in Sydney, I can do it in Sydney’,” she says. 

“I’ve seen more applicants for other locations regardless of where they are based, and I’ve seen hiring managers being more open to consider people from other cities.”

Looking for more on this topic? Manage the now and prepare for what’s next is one of the themes at this year’s Virtual Congress 2021. It’s happening soon on 20-22 October - find out more here.

Wellbeing at work

While working remotely affords the flexibility that workers desire, it also adds further pressure to the already blurred boundary between work and home life. 

Employees want to switch off from work at the end of the day, which can be difficult when your desk is your kitchen table.

Jobseekers want clarity regarding core work hours and expectations around availability, says Rozo, who is encountering more inquiries about wellbeing from candidates, including specific questions about access to employee assistance programs (EAP). 

“That wasn’t part of conversations I had with candidates before,” she says. 

Salary is always important – everyone has bills to pay – but it is not the primary consideration. 

“The appetite for salary hasn’t changed at a senior level”, but Rozo says “people are open to negotiating,” particularly at junior levels.

How to win the talent war

The latest PwC Australia’s CEO Survey has found that 71 per cent of leaders expected to increase headcount over the next three years, foreshadowing “a war for talent in the labour market” that will be “won by employers who actively engage their workforce and form a long-term plan that meets their changing needs and incorporates leadership development and upskilling”.

The opportunity to upskill – an area the PwC survey flags as overlooked by many CEOs – is a valuable drawcard for talent. 

“We’re now seeing jobseekers looking for roles that will allow them to advance their career and grow their skills, and companies that will invest in them with... professional training and skill development, reimbursement for continued education, mentorship programs and resource groups,” says Kumar.

An example is Optus, second on LinkedIn’s Top Companies list. 

Staff engagement has increased by 16 per cent under new CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin thanks to the introduction of initiatives such as Optus U, which allows employees to study emerging fields such as customer experience, data and analytics and automation at Macquarie University, Latrobe University and the Australian Graduate School of Management, part of the University of New South Wales Business School. 

Employers must make flexibility the norm, says Rozo. 

A remote workforce comes with the added benefit of facilitating collaboration among teams in different locations – and increasing the talent pool. 

“If your company is global, I would be offering virtual secondments for people in different places. It is possible,” she says. During lockdown “we saw we can do it”.

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December/January 2022
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