As we are looking forward to overcoming the Pandemic, it is time to reflect on how “normal” working life will look like. Here are few certainties and some questions to dig further:
The acceleration in the use of technology, digitalization, and new forms of working will be sustained. Interesting to notice that the US productivity has had the largest improvement in 2020 since 1965! In the third quarter of 2020, it rose 4,6%, following a 10,6% increase in Q2.
Online retail is real and much of it will stick.
The first half of 2020 saw an increase in e-commerce equivalent to that of the previous 10 years.
Switzerland has had the lowest online penetration rate prior to Covid 19 crisis, since then it has increased 18%, more than any other country! (*). Brands that haven’t figured out how to reach consumers in new ways had better catch up or they will be left behind.
Microsoft’s Satya Nadella noted in April 2020: “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 20% of the global workforce (most of them in high-skilled jobs in sectors such as finance, insurance, IT) could work the majority of its time away from the office- and be just as effective. (*)
As these surroundings create huge opportunities, there are still challenges reflect on:
How to decide the role of the office itself?
Whilst we have already seen some large transformation of office spaces into accommodation (see my previous article in French Télétravail, l’occasion unique de se réinventer),
returning to the office should not be a matter of simply opening the door (*).
What should take place in the office that cannot be achieved remotely? The office itself is the traditional centre for creating a culture and a sense of belonging. But this was in the former – pre-Covid age. As we move forward, belonging and culture will have moved away from taking root in the office space to more open, creative ways of nurturing. Therefore, the use of office space needs to be part of a holistic reconsideration of what exactly the office brings to the organization.
How to adapt the workforce to the requirements of automation digitization and other technologies?
As soon as October 2018, Korn Ferry (**) highlighted the talent shortage in developed economies as a main challenge in the near future: 58% of the CEOs said they haven’t faced a significant talent shortage before.
At the same time, the World Economic Forum estimated that half of the employees would need significant reskilling or upskilling by 2022. The WEF warned that
human capital would replace financial capital as the engine of future prosperity.
Faced with a lack of a qualified workforce, the only answer is to continuously reskill the workforce whilst investing in resilience for uncertain futures.
How to remain distinctly human in a tech-driven world?
The challenge for the organizations is to leverage the environment that technology creates to humanize the world of the work. (***).
It is time to look beyond the classical trade-offs and reconcile the opposite: technology versus humanity, belonging versus individuality, security versus reinvention…
Here are few paths to be successful:
Technology can create a better environment; organizations can foster belonging amid a desire for individuality through sharing the purpose at work. In focusing on belonging, the organizations can foster the sense of contributing to common goals. Fostering belonging is about feeling comfortable at work, i.e being treated fairly and respected by their colleagues, it’s about feeling connected with their teams, and it is about feeling that they contribute to meaningful work outcomes.
Only a renewed leadership will be able to create the appropriate surroundings where every single individual will feel comfortable, connected, and feel that they contribute to meaningful outcomes. First, these leaders are the ones who are able to embrace uncertainty as
“strategic uncertainty is the difference between management and leadership” (Zia Zaman).
What does it mean? A good manager operates under known circumstances and follows standard operating procedures; a great leader does all of this and can manage through a pivot by motivating and guiding his/ her teams through change, by dealing with uncertainty through testing and learning, and leads by example.
The state of the art summarized by Bill Gates: As we look ahead, leaders will be those who empower others”.
* McKinsey January 2021: The next normal arrives: Trends that will define 2021- and beyond .
** Reimagine Talent Strategy
***2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends