Article

Lauren Stiebing 11 May 2020

Pre-and-Post Covid-19: How Will Career Motivation Change?

An important element of LS International’s candidate assessment process is to understand the drivers behind the individual’s interest in changing jobs. Over the years, we have identified many such “motivations” that include meatier, more challenging roles to the opportunity to be part of a global organization. A quick analysis of data from until a couple of months ago reveals the following top five motivating factors:

  • Leadership responsibilities (as bestowed by the role or job title)
  • An opportunity for faster promotion (accompanied by appropriate rewards)
  • New or different challenges, often associated with a new market/product segment or geography
  • The opportunity to move from a smaller, regional company to one that has a more international or global business footprint
  • The perceived opportunity to drive change within the new organization

In the last ten weeks, most of us have seen our worlds violently turned upside down by the Covid-19 pandemic. The possibility of job losses, hiring freezes, no raises/bonuses all seem part of this new world we are now in. As companies look at resuming operations without putting employees at needless risk and complying with social distancing norms, working from home seems to be becoming the new paradigm. I remain an optimist, so am sure that as economic activity resumes and at least some of the many quests for a Covid-19 vaccine/cure bears fruit, the current chaos will reduce. A new normal will emerge, imposing numerous restrictions that add costs and inefficiencies and fundamentally change how we work and live.

But as these different thoughts bounced around in my head, it also struck me that this disruption is causing (and continues to cause) a shift in the motivations of candidates to change jobs. My hypothesis was based on the belief that people’s views are being shaped by two important factors:

  • What we, as individuals, value in life (and their relative priorities), given the current level of uncertainties that exist around a vaccine/cure; the risk of a second wave (as the northern hemisphere heads into fall/winter and summer begins in the southern hemisphere); the stresses and strains in the global trade and investment system and the fear that similar outbreaks may recur in the future.
  • In turn, the above fears and uncertainties are shaping expectations about the kind of companies expected to do well going forward and what companies need to offer employees to maximize their odds at contributing in a prolonged scenario of work from home (“wfh”), limited travel and virtual meetings as well as changing customer expectations.

To test the hypothesis, my team and I did a quick round of conversations with about 100 executives from our database. And sure enough, we found that many people are indeed looking at a different set of reasons to consider changing jobs. While some of these reasons revolve around “working from home” and how well the employer can meet the demands this model will impose on employees’ ability to deliver, criteria such as the prospects for the industry to bounce back, financial stability of the company and location also seem to be important considerations as people look at changing jobs.

We have categorized into four buckets the new top reasons/findings that our conversations uncovered:

Industry

  • How quickly industries are likely to evolve and reinvent themselves
  • The health and wellness sectors are likely to find it easier to attract talent

Company

  • Speed of shifts in business strategies and company policies in response to the crisis
  • How evolved work from home policies are (e.g. level of flexibility afforded, trade-offs in terms of work-life balance etc.)
  • How well wfh is enabled (e.g. easy-to-access and reliable tech support at home, availability of systems that can be accessed securely from home, collaboration platforms to work with colleagues globally etc.)
  • Start-ups focused on providing innovative solutions for the post-Covid19 world may be considered favourably (even vis-à-vis larger corporations that were built for the pre-Covid19 world)
  • Financial stability

Location

  • Proximity to family and friends

Experience

  • Executives with hands-on crisis management expertise and experience (e.g. in markets such as Argentina, Hong Kong or China) see themselves as being in demand because their experience can be applied across industries.

Real success for a head-hunter lies in getting a candidate to join the client organization, adapt quickly and deliver positive outcomes. As executive search specialists, we therefore see the above findings having an impact on where we look for talent and what we look for. Also, how roles are positioned to candidates will need to be finessed. Both head-hunters and talent acquisition teams will need to adapt, and look at “the best candidate” through a different, post-Covid19 lens. Expectations will change- whether it is at the level of the hiring company or individual candidates.