Article: WEF 2022: The global workforce is empowered but divided

Employee Relations

WEF 2022: The global workforce is empowered but divided

There is a clear gap between the workforce with in-demand skills and those without. How can organisations work with their employees to deliver a working life that meets evolving expectations?
WEF 2022: The global workforce is empowered but divided

An overwhelming majority of employees are apprehensive about job security and future employment. As they think about their hopes and fears, they want to make sure they have a fulfilling career. Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman of PwC, stated that employees worldwide are flexing their muscles amidst tight labour markets, rising inflation, and political division, referring to PwC's new survey of more than fifty thousand workers. The study indicates that workers value both meaning and transparency at work. How can businesses work with their employees to make "work" more meaningful?

It's not simply the work, according to Robert. Workers are looking for ways to optimise the work they do, especially automation that reduces monotony and routine tasks. They want to ensure that their work contributes to an organisation's strategy as well as its purpose. They're also focused on continuing to have the skills necessary to land the job opportunities of the future, not just the jobs they have today.

"Data indicates that if workers feel they have the skills, they are more likely to talk about total rewards packages," Robert remarked. The third aspect is creating an environment where workers can share their ideas and express themselves authentically, according to Robert.

Reiterating the shifting employee perspective, Jonas Prising, the Chairman and CEO, ManpowerGroup, said, "We're experiencing these shifts at a broad and local level in our own business." "Our emphasis on what we're doing as a company to be successful is underpinned by a desire to provide meaningful and sustainable employment for millions of workers across the world.”

Polarisation of skills

Robert explained that for the last couple of years, many organisations have focused on developing digital skills needed to transform work and being able to apply those digital skills to innovate in a meaningful way. However, the power in people's hands means they can explore exciting opportunities in the market. A fifth of the people polled in the survey are likely or very likely to leave in the next 12 months, added Robert. So, the context is really important for organisations trying to reengineer work and invest in skill development to have any hope of retaining the talent they want to, added Robert.

In response to a question from Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, who moderated the session, about the polarization of skills and the skills gap, Robert said there are wide disparities between those with in-demand skills and those without. Apart from the basic skills and digital skills, and being able to apply those skills meaningfully, it's important to describe what organisations do and how they hold themselves accountable in order to deliver societal benefits. To boost productivity, businesses are investing in current workers through upskilling and increasing wages - focusing on the elements they can most easily control. The share of companies taking these steps is still relatively low, asserted Robert. Only 40% of employees said their company is upskilling, and only 26% said their employer is automating or enhancing work through technology.

Leading into the future

Hybrid work is here to stay. Companies need to experiment and adapt to the changing ratio of office versus home time. That includes addressing the factors that drive retention risk—including authenticity, meaningful work and pay transparency—all of which become harder when employees aren’t in the same location every day.

According to Jonas, leading a flexible workforce is very different from leading a traditional workforce. Middle management used to have visibility and daily interaction with everyone doing a job. And today leadership skills are about getting work done in different ways with a lot less performance visibility. Jonas explained that it's less about the output control and more about the outcome expectations. In light of the increasing demand for flexibility, there will be a structural change in the labour market of tomorrow compared to its pre-pandemic state, said Jonas.

Lastly, leaders must ensure work-life balance. What is going to be the lasting legacy of the pandemic is the absolute awakening and realisation that getting greater control and managing work-life balance is possible, remarked Jonas. “There is no trade-off between productivity and more flexibility and this is something we know workers have been asking for a very long time.”  

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Topics: Employee Relations, #FutureOfWork

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