In light of the challenges and fundamental changes brought on by the pandemic in the world of work, Executives recognise the profound impact it has on how organizations recruit, support and interact with workers in the future. There is a need for a clear and sustainable workforce strategy in order to accommodate and thrive in the uncertain future.
Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends Special Report, “The Worker-Employer Relationship Disrupted: If We’re Not Family, What Are We?,” examines four potential futures based on the evolving worker-employer relationship, and how leaders are addressing those challenges while simultaneously grappling with a global public health crisis, economic uncertainty, and a wide spectrum of social movements. Each scenario is based upon two factors which will have a significant impact on the evolution of the worker-employer relationship: the supply of talent and the degree of government action.
“In today’s tumultuous and transitory environment, it is challenging for leaders to look beyond the in-the-weeds daily challenges. While defining hybrid work models is an important first step, creating a worker-employer relationship that empowers an organization to thrive depends first and foremost on a clear, compelling and differentiated strategy that is sustainable in any possible future,” said Erica Volini, principal and global human capital leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP.
While 86% of surveyed executives believe that workers will gain greater independence and influence relative to employers in the future, 63% of workers think their relationship with their employers will either become stronger or stay the same. As workers are reconsidering everything from who they want to work for to the role they expect employers to play in society’s most pressing issues, organizations are contemplating how this intersects with their purpose and how to balance shareholder and stakeholder needs. The four possibilities outlined by Deloitte’s report are as follows:
Work as fashion:
As organisations develop new policies by focusing on the most fashionable topics at the moment, they are responding to worker feedback, competitor actions and marketplace trends in real-time through surveys and other listening tools. While organizations are able to gauge worker feedback in the moment, it can also relegate corporate purpose to the role of decorative accessory. Short-term satisfaction in the worker-employer relationship along with the underrepresentation of less-dominant voices is a likely possibility.
War between talent:
In the uncertain future where the talent supply outpaces the availability of jobs, employer-worker relationships may have power imbalances, with increasing value attached to efficient work over developing and investing in the workforce. This could fuel trends such as globalization, offshoring, automation of work and the use of the alternative workforce. In an attempt to save on short-term workforce costs, organisations may lose out on potential productivity and innovation gains.
Work is work:
Work becomes the dominant factor in this highly professional employer-worker relationship. However, we find access to benefits such as financial stability and paid time off playing a crucial role as workers pursue fulfillment outside of work. Leaders who are focused on thriving in this scenario must then shift to outcome-based performance management, prioritizing well-being, diversity, and re-skilling.
Several organisations have embraced the role of the social enterprise, recognizing its potential impact on their corporate reputation. They have placed purpose at the heart of business decision-making and have focused on uniting their workers around a common goal. In this communal worker-employer future, the two parties operate as co-creators of the organizational purpose and rely on each other for organizational and personal fulfillment. But in order to avoid purpose being viewed as performative, organizations should regularly pull in external perspectives that represent impacted stakeholders, and take in feedback from workers.
Given these four possible scenarios for the worker-employer relationship and the potential risks associated with each of them, several important considerations need to be kept in mind. Employers must invest in building workforce capability to ensure that their people are able to adapt, re-skill and assume new roles when navigating future disruptions. They should also re-design work to focus on human capabilities, encourage a sense of belonging among employees and ensure that purpose is embedded in every part of the organisation. Employers need to align on a set of unwavering values and develop sustainable workforce strategies that will benefit everyone in the long run.