Article: Rise of the social enterprise and the future of work

Strategic HR

Rise of the social enterprise and the future of work

The 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report analyzes the growing clout of socially responsible enterprises and their impact on the future of work.
Rise of the social enterprise and the future of work

Organizations will look inward, and internal talent mobility will emerge as a prominent solution to the intense talent competition.


What does it mean to be future-ready? What are the tangible changes that will take place in the workforce and workplace that HR needs to be ready for? What are the right questions to ask to help us reimagine the future of work? 

Finding the answers to these questions is no easy task, but the recently published 2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report makes an earnest attempt to do so. Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends report has emerged as an authoritative source that highlights the most pertinent contemporary human capital challenges and trends. This year, surveying almost 10,000 respondents from 119 countries, the report has pointed towards the rapid growth in the role of social enterprises, their impact on the future of work and how organizations must reinvent themselves accordingly. 

Rise of the social enterprise

At the onset, the report announces that today’s conventional human capital challenges, like reinventing the capability to learn, improving productivity, and leadership development are intimately linked to the growing need to reinvent organizations as social enterprises with a human focus. The report defines a social enterprise as an organization whose “mission combines revenue growth and profit-making with the need to respect and support its environment and stakeholder network”. 

The CEOs who participated in the study cited the “impact on society, including income inequality, diversity and the environment” as the top measure of success in 2019, indicating that they fully realize the urgency with which organizations need to become social enterprises. However, the report notes that although CEOs have recognized the challenge, they are yet to solve it. “That’s because leading a social enterprise is not the equivalent of practicing corporate social responsibility. Nor is it about engaging in social impact programs or defining a purpose or mission statement – though all of these are also important in their own right,” the report states. This tectonic shift in the way we work requires a significant recalibration on a broad scale, which would naturally disrupt the existing model of work, workers and employers. This, alongside the Fourth Industrial Revolution and demographic changes, means that organizations need to reinvent themselves urgently. These changes have been broken down into ten human capital trends and how they will shape the future of the workforce, the organization and HR.

Future of the workforce 

The report suggests that the ‘alternative’ gig economy has now become mainstream and the shrinking talent supply has forced leading organizations to strategically engage with all types of workers. Organizations must be more open and flexible to these new work arrangements and use them strategically. Next, in order to benefit from the increasing use of intelligent technology, organizations will realize that “virtually every job must change, and that the jobs of the future are more digital, more multidisciplinary and more data- and information-driven.” Thus, all jobs will be redesigned to emphasize on the ‘human dimension’ of work and will give rise to ‘superjobs’ - jobs that combine parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles that leverage the significant productivity and efficiency gains that can arise when people work with technology.

With 80 percent of the survey respondents stating that leadership was an important or very important issue and an equal number saying that ’21st –century leaders’ face unique and new requirements, leadership development is an urgent and perennial priority. Thus, in order to succeed in today’s world, “leaders must take a nuanced approach to pursuing traditional business goals: an approach that takes into account the new context in which such goals must be achieved, and that draws on critical new competencies – including leading through change, embracing ambiguity and uncertainty and understanding digital, cognitive and AI-driven technologies – to get there.”

Future of the organization 

Eighty-four percent of the participants in the study rated ‘employee experience’ as an important issue, while 28 percent reported it to be urgent. Thus, employers and leaders are aware of the significance of cultivating an engaging employee experience. However, the concept must now evolve to ‘human experience’ at work, “building on an understanding of worker aspirations to connect work back to the impact it has on not only the organization but the society as a whole.”

Furthermore, the importance of teamwork will continue to rise as teams rapidly replace hierarchies. The challenge, however, is that most organizations are yet to refresh leadership, job roles and rewards according to the team-based model of work. “Many leaders do not know how to operate in teams and have not yet adopted the team model of engaging with each other. Deeper in the enterprise, many organizations are still struggling to build programs and incentives that support teaming as well.,” the report reveals. Thus, organizations need to expedite the process of adapting talent practices to keep up with the team-based model of working. Lastly, there is a clear gap between the rewards that are being offered and the rewards that employees want. Only 11 percent of the respondents agreed that their rewards system was highly aligned with the company goals, and 23 percent admitted that they did not know what rewards their workers value. 

Future of HR 

As the war for talent intensifies in the face of rising demand and unstable supply, organizations will have to design new strategies to “continuously access talent in varying ways: mobilizing internal resources, finding people in the alternative workforce and strategically leveraging technology to augment sourcing and boost recruiting productivity.” Similarly, on the skilling front, learning will become more integrated with work, more personal and slowly shift to lifelong models. The report further states, “Effective reinvention along these lines requires a culture that supports continuous learning, incentives that motivate people to take advantage of learning opportunities and a focus on helping individuals identify and develop new, needed skills.”

Organizations will look inward, and internal talent mobility will emerge as a prominent solution to the intense talent competition. A new framework that regulates and normalizes internal mobility will change the perception of mobility as a “natural, normal progress instead of as a major change in one’s career.” However, the report also says that such mobility opportunities must be made available at levels to work effectively and that “technology should be used to develop streamlined mobility processes for moves between functions, jobs, projects and geographies.” Lastly, the use of cloud computing in HR technology will help in exploring new platforms, and advancing automation and AI-based tools to complement the core systems, while supporting innovation, raising employee productivity and lowering costs. 

These trends represent the need to refresh (update and improve), rewire (create new directions to change the strategic direction) or recode (start over and redesign from scratch) existing workplace practices to ensure “a renewed human focus in a world where profits meet purpose, talent trumps technology and the social enterprise reigns supreme.” One of the highlights of the report is that it focuses equally on the ‘how,’ in addition to the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and helps the reader fully grasp the meaning and scope of complex workplace trends. Leaders and professionals from all industries would benefit from taking a closer look at the report and comprehend the sweeping changes that are set to take place in our current workplace. As the report very prudently explains, “Because the paradox of today is that while we live in a world of amazing technology, it is – and always will be – human potential that moves us forward.”


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Topics: Strategic HR, #FutureOfWork

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