Virtual Talent Summit: Post-Pandemic Tech Talent Shift
On May 21, 2021, The Women Tech Council hosted a 90 minute webinar that discussed post-pandemic changes in the job market. WTC’s founder and President, Cydni Tetro, kicked off the webinar by framing the discussion around the idea that the population of workers who went home to work remotely in March of 2020 are not the same people expected to return to the office in 2021.
She cited original WTC research gleaned from discussions and surveys of over 70 Utah tech executives on topics including working from home, mental health, team cohesion, productivity and company culture. “The way we are going to work here on out is going to look different,” said Tetro.
Key takeaways from the WTC’s research include:
Flexibility — The pandemic taught us that employees require increased flexibility in the workplace environment to allow employees to change where and when they work based on their needs, job responsibilities, and work-life balance. Almost 95% of respondents said they want a work schedule with flexibility and remote work options. 91% of survey respondents felt that everything related to one’s job and career mobility has continued regardless of where they work, and that they are as productive working from home.
Better work-life balance — Nearly 70% of respondents to the WTC survey said they were able to create better work-life balance while working remotely—and they’re now not willing to give that up. A mere 3% of respondents said they are ready to return to the office full time. In fact, 40% said if they were asked to return to the office full time, they would consider leaving that company and look for another job.
“While their work days may now be longer, employees are better able to weave together things that are important to them during the day and to be able to find the things that are important to them in the balance of life.”
More family time — The ability to deepen relationships has now become more important, said Tetro about the survey data. Priorities have shifted. People now understand they can have a more integrated work-life balance.
Among tech leaders surveyed, 75% said they support a hybrid (option to work at home or in the office) work model. Only 34% said they are planning on providing office space to accommodate all employees on the same day.
One of the panelists, Helen Hu, Chair of the Computer Science Department at Westminster College, thinks employers should offer virtual connection opportunities for job seekers by reaching out through Linkedin and other social media platforms. She recommends companies better articulate their values and culture during hiring interviews. She mentioned that women are leaving companies because they are working at companies who don’t have inclusive culture, resulting in women leaving the tech space entirely.
Another panelist, Lucinda Duncalfe, founder and CEO of AboveBoard, observed the pandemic’s effect on companies is starkly unbalanced, a “tale of two cities” situation, where some companies have prospered while others have struggled. She said growth in remote opportunities has exploded with much more openness to full time remote opportunities among employers.
“We are headed into a crazy summer,” said Duncalfe. “There’s going to be tons of leadership changes this summer, so if you’re thinking about making a move, this summer is the time to do it.”
Tom Ngo, CEO and Founder of Lumin.ai, manages a remote team that has no plans to come back together. This means they need to “exercise radical trust.” Ngo emphasizes leaders should allow their team to keep their own identities, especially in company cultures with highly rigid boundaries and tightly defined roles and responsibilities. He wants people to listen more. He recommends that all employees should focus more on a broader context of what an organization is doing and speak about the function or product of the company in terms that would be clear and understandable to a non-technical outsider.
Jenn Melzer, Design Manager at Brandless, says now is the time for employers to be having dialogues about what is and isn’t working for employees. Some people want to go back to the office while others want to remain working remotely. Melzer said “we are in a new dynamic; you have the power to ask for what you need from your employer.”
Stephanie Randle, Senior Marketing Director at Lendio, says with 2020 being an already challenging year, success and more challenges in 2021 will be difficult to navigate, especially when trying to create a harmonious work-life balance and retain talent. Remote workers may feel that they have fewer opportunities available to them if they remain working from home as compared to workers who go back to the office. She stresses that it is important that all workers have their voices heard as companies navigate working from home vs coming back into the office this year.
Erica Cuttitta, Director of Software Engineering at Pluralsight, emphasized it is okay to ask for help from important people in one’s life but also from professionals in order to cope with the difficulty of the pandemic. “What brings me joy?” Cuttitta asked of herself. She encourages others to ask the same question, and then make adjustments to adjust work to fit one’s needs.
“We need to be gentle, kind, and flexible with each other”
Sui Lang Panoke, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director at Zions Bank, stresses the importance of building bridges across differences and to create equitable partnerships with people regardless of race or gender. Sui Lang also stated that in order to achieve equality, banks and financial institutions are needed and crucially facilitate that possibility. She announced Zions Bank’s new small business diversity banking program, a special lending program designed to grow women-owned, ethnic-minority owned and veteran-owned businesses.
Dennis Wood, VP of Human Capital at Mercato Partners said that employers need to be clear about what they offer to employees in the exchange between employees and the employer. Employees work hard, put in time, and create value for the company. In return, besides compensation, employers offer positive effects on a person’s career, a team to work with, and other non-remunerative benefits to help employees “self-actualize and become,” said Wood.
Denise Leleux, CEO at Curbee, closed the summit with the observation that during 2020 not working side by side in offices hurt collaboration and did in fact weaken the development of younger employees especially. “And it hurt the heart and soul of companies because they had to put culture on the sideline.” said Leleux. Companies want people back in the office because it fosters collaboration. Yet employees want and need time in order to be collaborative again and to avoid burnout. “Burnout is real, and it affects judgment.” Leleux stresses companies are going to have to address burnout. She concluded with “hybrid is the future, there is no going back, but companies need to determine how to foster interconnectedness and networking for all employees.”
Thanks go to Brian Rodriguez, TechBuzz intern, who contributed to this story.