6 insights to shape your candidate conversations during COVID-19

There was widespread relief when New Zealand’s domestic COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in June, but for many people, working life is still in a state of flux.

The lockdown was sudden and, for many, the impact was severe. There have been redundancies and reduced hours and many candidates and employees are asking: what next?

New independent research commissioned by SEEK provides a deeper insight into what candidates are thinking and feeling now. Here we identify the six key themes that may help you have more informed conversations with your future – and current – employees.

1. More than a third feel nervous about job security

A sense of uncertainty is something many people have felt during COVID-19. That’s been evident from a work perspective, too – 34% of employees say they feel nervous about their job security.

While it’s difficult for employers to guarantee job security, promoting a sense of resilience can help to alleviate employee nervousness.

Catherine Dixon, Executive General Manager People Experience at Suncorp, says resilience is something that can be supported and encouraged.

“It involves learned behaviours and ways of thinking that can be developed in anyone,” she says. “Suncorp people are supported to grow different aspects of their own resilience. We see resilience as a key current and future workforce capability, and are investing heavily in helping our people develop these skills.”

2. Mental health is the spotlight

Along with a greater sense of insecurity, 27% of candidates are feeling lonelier than ever. Almost half believe that mental health is more important than physical health.

Suncorp has a team of 1,000 across New Zealand, and Dixon explains the organisation has collated a suite of online resources that employees can tap into to support their psychological wellbeing and resilience at any time.

“These support options include free tools, podcasts, apps, resources, coaching and specialist counselling services to help team members grow their resilience and safeguard their mental health,” Dixon says.  “Specific programs are available to leaders looking to grow or strengthen team resilience.”

Though returning to the workplace is now an option for many, more companies may be open to continuing or expanding their remote working practices. But it’s a style of working that comes with its own set of considerations around mental health and wellbeing.  Ben Pearson, General Manager of Beyond Recruitment in Wellington, says people have different needs and motivations around working from home and maintaining balance.

“One on extreme, you have employees that will work 12-hour days and into the weekend and be ‘always available’ as a result of being constantly connected to work,” he says. “Chances are these workers would have had an unhealthy balance prior to the recent lockdowns.”

In these cases, Pearson suggests employers adapt their management practices to help these people achieve a greater balance. “Solutions we have seen range from a conscious coaching approach to drive more balance, through to hard solutions like cutting off access outside of core hours,” he says.

Read: How to better support your teams’ mental health 

3. There have been fewer upskilling and reskilling opportunities

Remote working conditions may have disrupted professional development programs – only 11% of Kiwis who’ve been working from home have received upskilling and reskilling opportunities during this time.

Pearson believes that while most organisations are still discovering how more remote working can be beneficial to employers and employees, online professional development should increase. “I see that virtual professional development is moderately common already,” he says. “I know of a number of organisations that use off-shore based professional development providers who have delivered training and material via webinar and online for several years.

“This will become more sophisticated as time goes on, and the recent lockdown will accelerate this.”

Read: 5 ways to help your team work well from home 

4. Routines have changed

More than half (56%) of people claim their daily work routine has changed completely as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has also affected the nature of roles, with one in three saying their role is now completely different.


Dixon says COVID-19 has had a profound impact on workplaces. “There is no doubt our way of working has changed forever,” she says. “We see resilience as a key current and future workforce capability, and are investing heavily in helping our people develop these skills.”

5. Working conditions are highly valued

After salary and compensation, working conditions or environment are the most important consideration for almost 50% of candidates looking for a new job.

“Post-COVID, our focus is very much on implementing practical measures to keep our people safe and well,” says Dixon. “We’re considering how we might repurpose elements of our office space to support our new ways of working.”

ReadA simple guide to workplace flexibility 

6. Technology is an enabler

 Technology has been vital in keeping business doors open during the crisis – 4 in 5 say new technologies have enabled them to work from home more efficiently and conveniently during COVID-19. More than half say they are either as efficient (32%) or more efficient (25%) when working from home.

“We’re seeing the weeks ahead as a great opportunity to accelerate the ‘work anywhere’ capability our people have demonstrated so strongly during lockdown,” says Dixon.

With restrictions eased in New Zealand, the ‘next normal’ is just around the corner. A greater understanding of candidate sentiment can help you support your current and future employees to rise to the challenges.