The workforce is transforming and business leaders are hard at work redesigning jobs, roles and workplace cultures. But as I discussed in my previous post, these transformation efforts are at risk because business planning often fails to account for the changing sentiment of the workforce.

Companies therefore find themselves in a situation where their most prized people are also the most likely to want to leave, where skills building is being focused in the wrong areas, and where workers are increasingly ambivalent about remote working (workforce surveys by Accenture suggest the number of people reporting they enjoy working from home dropped from 80% in March 2020 to 71% in July).

How can business leaders overcome paradoxes such as these? It’s a critical question to answer, because companies that don’t find a solution will soon find they lack the talent needed to grow – either because they have failed to reskill their workforce in the right way, or because they eventually lose talent to companies that are perceived to be a better fit for the new needs of the workforce.

Workforce strategy in a multi-factor world

The answer to this question lies in drawing up a workforce strategy that’s fit for purpose. This is a significant challenge. When I talk to CEOs across a wide range of industries, I keep hearing different versions of the same problem.

Leaders today are faced with making decisions on multiple fronts. On one hand, they need to reduce costs as a result of the tough economic climate. But on the other, they must innovate at speed and invest in agile, cloud-based technologies to weather once-in-a-generation disruption. That imperative also means they need to invest in their people and build new skills within the organization so that they can make the most of the opportunities of digital transformation. The three vectors of cost, speed and human capital are intersecting and giving business leaders a large amount to consider.

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Back to basics

In this environment, leaders need to take stock, starting with the fundamentals and considering their Purpose and what they need from their people today and in the future. Weighing up the trade-offs that are necessary to enable forward momentum and growth, the goal is to articulate a path forward to everyone in the company. Once that destination is defined, leaders can then think strategically about key factors such as their approach to retention, skills building and capability blending.

Working in this way, the leadership team defines how they want to show up for their people and how they want to be seen as an employer in the market.

Know your people

In the age of ‘stakeholder capitalism’, part of this vision includes what’s important to your workforce. Leaders who take the time to understand what matters to their people and deliver against their holistic needs build the engagement and productivity needed to meet their objectives.

This impacts on the bottom line. Recent Accenture research shows that when leaders make their people ‘net better off’ by addressing their whole person needs they unlock their peoples’ full potential. Companies that do this grow significantly faster than their peers.

Building trust is also important when it comes to retention. Our latest research into digital fluency shows people with high levels of trust in an organization are more likely to want to work for their company for a long time (79% vs. 44%).

The ability to understand and respond to the concepts of net better off and workforce trust can be supported by data and by understanding your starting point. Data helps leaders understand performance, but also what matters to their people and whether their workforce strategies deliver as required.

In my final blog in this series, I want to dig a little deeper into the subject of data and look at how AI and personalization can create whole new modes of workforce engagement provided the right levels of trust are secured first.

But data alone isn’t enough. The insights needed to understand the workforce’s changing needs and to transform the organization accordingly already exist, but they are worth nothing without corresponding action. Looking ahead, it will be organizations led by people willing to act fast on what they learn that will be better able to redesign jobs, roles and workplace cultures for the new normal.

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Technology + human ingenuity drives growth

In today’s environment, change is a constant and powerful force that, when harnessed correctly, is the key to survival and success.

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See more Workforce insights.

Yaarit Silverstone

Senior Managing Director – Talent & Organization / Human Potential, Global Strategy Lead & North America Lead

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