24 Apr 2021

The Burgeoning Fluid Workforce

Saad Siddiqui

Principal

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By Saad Siddiqui, Telstra Ventures

 

We are witnessing the most significant shift in the way we work since the first industrial revolution.

 

The 9-5, Monday to Friday is dead.

In January 2020, ‘working from home’ was a carrot dangled by forward-thinking companies looking to land the best talent. For most of the corporate workforce, to work from home needed management approval, with a good reason even to make the request.

Today flexibility defines the workforce; work revolves around personal lives rather than the other way around. Working parents can make school pick-ups without taking half a day’s leave. Doctor’s appointments with ailing parents are now a possibility, minus the stress of asking for time off.

 

Welcome to The Fluid Workforce.

The Fluid Workforce is spurring growth in venture capital investments, with significant growth across EdTech, Health Tech and Cloud, Network, and Security Tech. Tech’s Great Migration: Insights to Emerging Tech Hubs Across the U.S., highlights that the EdTech sector experienced a 12% increase in VC investments during 2020, accelerated by massive shifts in workforce reskilling and remote learning.

 

The talent power shift.

Companies the world over are changing how they look for and find talent.

We’re already seeing more impromptu hiring practices on platforms like Clubhouse and Lunchclub and community platforms like Elpha replacing traditional hiring processes. Earlier this year, Tribal Singapore asked candidates to pitch for a content strategist role job via Clubhouse.

With recruitment taking place almost entirely online – it’s much harder to assess personality and cultural fit. How do you get that same ‘feeling’ about a potential hire when you can’t see the whites of their eyes and chat over a coffee?

Employers turn to their networks and alma maters to recommend good talent – in some ways, a return to ‘tribalism.’ As these sources ‘tap out,’ however, employers are exploring new methods.

Background and social media checks are being used more often with companies that offer these services gaining momentum. One such company in our portfolio is Certn¹. The demand for Certn’s comprehensive background check services has seen over a 700% boost throughout 2020.

 

Onboarding reinvention

If you started a new job in the last 12 months, chances are, you started it from your living room or kitchen table.

There’s no IT or HR Manager to walk you through your set-up and show you the different systems you will be using. The burden is on you to learn the ropes.

Remote hiring practices have become the norm rather than the exception, so remote onboarding has naturally followed. We see a swell of companies growing to ease the onboarding process.

Companies like GetGuru, Spekit and Walkme focus on setting new employees up for success and help reduce new starter anxiety. Papaya Global, Oyster and RemoteHQ enables companies to grow teams and expand geographically without setting up costly and complicated company structures.

 

The recalibration of collaboration.

There’s something to be said for the “incidental conversation” in a physical office environment. These happen as you move from the meeting room to your desk or the office kitchen. That spontaneous kitchen brainstorming session can be where the best ideas are born – but how do you replicate that spontaneity and creative thinking when you’re not even in the same zip code?

Applications like Donut on Slack make it easier to be creative and stay connected, just as collaboration through applications like Notion and Asana helps to normalize remote brainstorming, project management and collaboration.

 

Productivity pains gains.

There’s a lot of debate around the impact on productivity in the remote workforce – has it improved productivity or made it worse?

Overall, the benefits outweigh the challenges, and we will start to see a shift towards more programs that drive productivity and remote collaboration. Things like documentation, metrics publishing, and some version of a “workforce progress bar” will become widespread practice.

ClickUp is an excellent example of boosting productivity within the remote workforce. They recently raised $100M in series B funding with a clear global mission to make the world more productive.

 

Company culture.

Workplace culture is hard to define, easy to ignore, and undoubtedly, challenging to maintain. How do you support a healthy office culture when the primary connection tool is via a screen?

Companies are redefining corporate culture, emphasizing trust, flexibility and rethinking social events. Startups like Gather.town build virtual offices for people to spend more time with their colleagues in a fun and social way.

We are always excited to meet companies that build frameworks around time limits for work and life to limit video conference and reduce screen fatigue.

 

Rethinking employee benefits.

2020 forced many families to balance life, family, and work commitments all under one roof. Childcare support, mental health, and financial planning help dominate employee benefit conversations, rather than the historical health insurance and 401K plans.

The result is the convergence of FinTech and Health Tech applications as people become more sensitive to their financial and mental wellness. Mental health, financial planning, and family benefits platforms like Lyra, Origin,  Modern Health, unmind, Benepass and Cleo are gaining traction and VC investments are following. In 2020, Health Tech saw more investment growth than any other sector with a 24% increase in investments versus 2019.

Historically, big tech companies lure extraordinary talent with higher compensation packages. However, over time, benefits might trump salary, and become an opportunity for companies to differentiate to attract talent.

 

The future is fluid and bright.

The growth of the Fluid Workforce means we no longer need to endure long commutes, or live where the company head office is located. Now we can choose geographies based on where we want to live for lifestyle.

It also means people have the fluidity to rethink, retrain and change careers. Springboard² is accelerating this trend – one we expect to see more in market. Springboard offers an online learning experience that focuses on mentor-guided and personalized courses in skill gap areas like data science and UI/UX.

 

Ultimately, adapting to the Fluid Workforce makes employees’ happier, lives more manageable, and as a result, more productive at work. We expect to see a lot more growth from companies that support the Fluid Workplace.

 

¹Certn is a company in our investment portfolio.

²Springboard is a company in our investment portfolio.