As industry buzzwords go, here's a one that is gaining rapid traction: "remote-first". It's a term that's floated around the tech-blogosphere for years. Stack Overflow defined it as:
working remote is the default. It means making sure your remote employees are as much a part of the team as those in the office.
It's been default mode for a number of start-ups (often driven by a sea of competing factor, from availability of local talent to lack of office space), that continued forward into tech giants such as Google and Facebook. (IBM and Yahoo! infamously bucked that trend.) Consulting firms followed suite, to an extent, but the focus there tended to be "remote friendly".
Covid-19 and remote work
With the rapid transition to remote-everything as a response to near-global stay-at-home orders through the first quarters of 2020, and deep uncertainty regarding the fall's potential for a second wave of the pandemic, organizations are increasingly developing remote-first policies and support structures. And indications are that those changes are likely to maintain throughout 2020 and very likely into the future. According to a recent study by the US group of global consulting/ accounting firm PwC, the large majority of respondents are inclined to continue with remote work. Their data "shows that a permanent flexible workweek (and perhaps workday) has broad support. Most office workers (83%) want to work from home at least one day a week, and half of employers (55%) anticipate that most of their workers will do so long after COVID-19 is not a concern."
This has implications - clear ones - for the talent acquisition industry. Remote-first workforces necessitate remote-first recruiting strategies. Practitioners are already moving in that direction. As Willam Wiggins, HR Manager for Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle told RNN: "I've moved the majority of my interviewing online - and I expect that will continue even once we're past this. It's just far too efficient to give up". RNN recently interviewed the CMO of a leading startup in the Learning space. They're seeing increased demand well beyond their traditional market (corporate sales and marketing), and are eying the HR and TA space as a rapidly appearing & maturing market for their product.
Venture capital, and tech vendors, are responding
HR Wins is out with their investment analysis in the HR tech space over Q2, and the trends speak are leaning heavily into categories that remote-first hiring leans on:
Reached for off-the-record comment, a Boston-based VC told RNN: "if it enables remote working and hiring, we're looking at it. Everything else is slow-rolled after that." According to Jean -Francois Marcoux, managing partner at White Star Capital, collaboration software has gone from hot to volcanic over the coursed of the first half of 2020: “We think [investments are] going to increase from a volume standpoint, and the valuation of those businesses will increase. We definitely see quite a shift. What we're seeing out there is a kind of a perfect storm when it comes to adoption.”
Employees aren't the only ones pushing for remote work, and the tools to support it. A TA tech founder/ leader (who's company is well positioned to grow rapidly due to their remote-enabling solutions) said to RNN recently: "We're offering the option of going in, in phases, to the office. But for me? I'm never going in the office again. Ever. I truly think that time is done, unless you really have to be there hands-on. But that's very specific - the growth is all in roles that can be done digitally."
The return may not be a full one
Hovering behind all of this? Mass uncertainty. Consider the week's headlines: President Trump's administration is pushing hard for schools to reopen. States, as well as the CDC, are pushing back just as hard. Caught in the middle? Workers and their employers. Childcare is a real and consistent theme - even with full reopening of businesses, if schools remain closed - or are forced to rapidly shut down due surges - employers and their employees will be forced into remote work, but inconsistently. Employers - particularly multi-state and/ or global - will be forced to develop patchwork processes and tech to hobble through.
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