The reverberations of the pandemic continue to be felt across our lives, from our wallets to our workplace.

In a recent consumer survey by customer engagement software firm Freshworks of more than 10,500 customers from 10 countries, their research uncovered some favourable trends for Aussies when compared to their global peers.

Of the 1,000 Australians surveyed, 93% said they were more inclined to favour companies which treat workers fairly and safely and, while not a common practice in Australia, 80% said they are giving larger or more frequent tips. More importantly, 78% said they will continue to spend money they normally wouldn’t to support workers and struggling businesses.

Maybe we miss human interaction, too. Despite the global shift towards ecommerce, only 32% of Australians said they moved to shopping online during the pandemic. Apparently we prefer more localised shopping, with 97% of those who shifted their habits to shop locally are seeking to maintain this behaviour.

We see this evidenced by a growing wave of ‘shop local’ initiatives, from South Australia’s Shop Local SA and the regional Buy From The Bush to digital plays like the fascinating Sook Commerce browser extension, which lets you see the same products you’re viewing, but from local retailers.

However it’s not just Australian shoppers who are showing a more compassionate response to the global pandemic. Big corporations are also softening their stance on a lot of human-centric issues in the workplace.

Drivers Aren’t Just For Hardware

Last month ANZ VP and General Manager of IBM, Jason Price outlined the commitment of the local

Jason Price, VP ANZ and General Manager, IBM

branch to taking a more “humanistic” approach that will help leaders better understand their people, and adjust their styles accordingly.

Price said this new commitment is driven by the need to be more responsive to the actual motivations of their team members.

“I have found a mix of colleagues to be motivated by rewards, while others were motivated by working in a team or having flexible work hours and a work life balance. What motivates staff isn’t set in stone and it can change.”

Humans are different, this we know. Their needs are as varied as every other element in business. In recognition of this, some organisations are now putting their money where it matters.

So, what does this look like in practice?

Here Come The Unicorns

Aussie content discovery tech company Linktree earlier this year introduced a parental leave policy that aims to support the entire parenting cycle, with the firm offering parents within all family constructs 18 weeks of leave, including flexibility to attend family planning meetings such as IVF and antenatal appointments.

“Our hope is that by offering a progressive parental leave policy and experience that aligns with the realities of being a working parent today, we will create a workplace that allows every parent to bring their best self to life”, said Isa Notemans, Global Head of People and Culture at Linktree.

Aussies Leading The Way

Linktree aren’t the only Australian tech unicorn using the pandemic to make progressive changes to their HR policies. Global payments platform and local success story Zip Co have also softened their employee focused policies since the onset of the pandemic.

Going even further in the expansion of their policies, Zip is also stepping up to combat the scourge of domestic violence beyond it’s internal teams. In May this year, Zip overhauled its approach to violence in the home, now providing 10 paid days leave – female or male – and regardless of tenure or country, to any staff who are experiencing family domestic violence.

Not only that, for Zip customers experiencing financial violence, they will not need to provide evidence such as an AVO order, Police Reports or medical evidence to access their financial support. A pretty significant step in helping stop the pandemic taking the lives of one woman every week, murdered by her current or former partner.

Zip has also introduced a raft of other policies, including Miscarrage Bereavement leave for affected couples.


Implementing Change

So how do brands and firms take this step and apply a more ‘human centric’ approach to their internal policies and procedures?

Caryn Walsh is a Leadership Development Executive who works with organisations to build more high performing teams and the task of humanising their culture and policies is a question her clients get often.

“The pursuit of Organisations to feel more human has been an area of key focus over the last few years, which has rapidly escalated with COVID”, says Walsh.

Caryn Walsh, Leadership Development

“Employees don’t just come to work, get their job done and go home. Leaders are coming to respect that employees have various ‘lives’ – work and career life, sporting life, personal life, relationship life and for some, a spiritual life. Smart leaders show a genuine interest in their people across all their ‘lives’ – supporting and encouraging them every step of the way.”

Realising these ‘lives’ is one thing, but applying inspired thinking to a workplace environment is not always straightforward.

Walsh agrees. “There’s no roadmap for these things. Every organisation is different. So the first step for any leader is to first recognise your employees as humans, not numbers. The best way to do that? Listen! People want to feel as if they are heard and contributing.”

“You may not even need to make any drastic changes, if you just take on board what your people are telling you. Smart bosses ask their people for their opinion, consider their input and make the employee feel as if they are contributing to the Company’s overall direction.”

With a whole host of unanticipated issues springing up from the monumental shift during COVID, it appears the trend to being more human is one which is catching on more broadly.

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