Transformation journey in the future of work
of leaders say it’s important to identify the skills needed to keep pace with the changing times
of leaders realise that clear communication on purpose and values is very important
of leaders agree that scenario-based planning is important to plan for multiple possible futures
of leaders outline the need to identify risks to the firm caused by decisions to replace human work with technology
From virtual to hybrid – over the last couple of years, there has been a significant change in the way we work. If productivity and connectivity were the driving forces of the virtual world after the onset of the pandemic, it’s a plethora of choices combining the physical and virtual that govern the hybrid world to which we are now shifting.
With a change in work, workplace, work culture and workforce dynamics, accelerating the transformation journey at the workplace is now a priority with most organisations.
Our report, People and culture first: Transformation journey in the future of work, deals with all this and more. It is based on the global Future of Work and Skills Survey conducted in September 2021 in which nearly 4000 business and HR leaders across 26 countries and 28 sectors participated. The report provides insights into the challenges and impediments that often prevent organisations from becoming future ready, and highlights the necessity of empathising and simultaneously embracing debate and dissent.
Identifying the risks of replacing human work with technology
Communicating clearly about the effect of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on future skills needs
Providing physical working environments and technology that enable all workers to perform at their best
Over the past two years, the pandemic has forced leaders to question their choices on many aspects affecting their organisations, right from people to culture to technology. They have realised, as this Future of Work and Skills Survey indicates, that along with organisational strategic intent and system optimisation, other actions are to be considered to future-proof organisations and bring about the desired transformation. They need to proactively act on workforce initiatives, build capability in a well-considered way, and, among other things, work towards making their culture more resilient in order to be future ready. This understanding has triggered their identification of six no-regrets moves to prepare for the future of work and win in the workplace before winning in the marketplace.
As organisations face an increasingly uncertain future, planning is more important – and more difficult – than ever before. The main blockers to anticipating and planning for the future highlighted by India leaders were cost pressure, fear of potential consequences of taking action, and lack of business capability to deliver.
Recognise ‘prioritising and sense making’ as an organisational capability that is critical to drive investment decisions. Leaders need to be aware that committing to both types of planning – scenario based and dynamic – infuses a flexibility that factors in the depth of possibilities and breadth of capabilities.
Building trust in the organisation with the leadership ably setting the tone at the top is a significant lever to prepare for the future of work. PwC research has demonstrated that people want to work for employers that show they care. They also want the organisations they work for to live up to their purpose and values. But now, as organisations move to virtual and hybrid workplaces, they face the hard reality of building commitment and driving joint success without building personal bonds.
Democratise the workplace concept to focus on a ‘workplace of the people’ as against a ‘workplace for the people’. Building trust entails an open and inclusive organisational culture, where people take equal ownership of their workplace to deliver their best.
Gone are the days of monitoring employees. Now is the time for leaders to build an environment that supports sustainable and consistent productivity. But productivity shouldn’t emerge at the expense of well-being; rather, it should be an outcome of well-being. The main blockers to optimising workforce productivity and performance, as highlighted by India leaders, were issues with systems and data, cost pressure, organisational culture and competing investments or priorities.
Use technology to enable productivity and performance, while management enables culture. If productivity and performance are measured by technology, management could primarily focus on building organisational culture.
It’s imperative that businesses create a culture of continuous learning, invest in systems and maintain an inventory of current and future skills to leverage learning and development as a competitive advantage. But the main blockers to enabling the skills of the future, as highlighted by India leaders, are related to cost pressure, organisational culture, fear of potential consequences, lack of senior leadership and business capability to deliver and competing investments or priorities.
Prioritise culture as a competitive advantage. Leaders need to build a culture that has a laser focus on the long-term development of people.
Digitisation will continue to be a top concern for leaders and a source of anxiety for workers. But the pandemic proved the importance of technology in engaging customers, freeing employee bandwidth for more intellectual rather than mundane tasks, creating new ways of working and even promoting productivity.
Focus on human-led, tech-enabled ways of working. The future of work demands that people drive technology, rather than being driven by it.
Even as organisations think about how to make in-house workers more agile, it’s important that they increase their recruiting capabilities and simultaneously focus on internal mobility and redeployment by taking initiatives to reskill and redeploy their workforce.
View the organisation in the ‘skills and capability age’. Leaders need to develop the ability to upskill, reskill and enhance in-house workers’ long-term employability and be open to leveraging the gig economy.
The calls to action highlight the need to focus on the following three critical questions to action the six no-regrets moves.
Are we valuing capability and culture to drive organisational performance and productivity?
Are we readying ourselves for the ‘Skills Age’?
Are we holding ourselves accountable for prioritising the right investment decisions?
In September 2021, PwC commissioned a global survey of 3,937 business executives and HR-focused leaders. The survey polled leaders in 26 countries across 28 sectors. Of these, 210 leaders were from India and included 51% senior or business leaders and 49% HR-focused personnel.
Among the 210 Indian leaders who participated:
were from sectors such as banking and capital markets, healthcare, industrial manufacturing, retail and technology, and the rest were from other sectors such as agriculture, education and business/professional services
of the organisations were listed companies
of the organisations had a revenue above USD10 million
The findings in this report have been crowdsourced from
Leader inputs from the Future of Work and Skills Survey
PwC thought leadership
Insights from the Excellence in the new ecosystem: A PwC and NHRDN perspective
Optimising productivity is about focusing on what you can control, and it’s integral to overcoming challenges related to digitisation and automation. Our survey confirms what has been widely reported elsewhere: remote or hybrid work boosted productivity in most workplaces. In our survey, 57% of respondents said their organisation performed better against workforce performance and productivity targets over the past 12 months. Only 4% said their company performed significantly worse.
Given these findings, now is the time for leaders to build an environment that supports sustainable productivity rather than fret about monitoring employees. Being productive for a day or week is meaningless if that productivity comes at the expense of well-being. Giving workers flexibility to manage their work and home lives as they see fit and take time to rest, and supporting their diverse circumstances and needs, will help them to be healthy, mentally and physically. And this will make it more likely that they’ll perform well in the long term.
‘Leaders need to engage with and listen to their people when responding to employee burnout and the desire of people to work for organisations that live up to their purpose, values and culture.’
Leaders know employees will need new skills to help their organisations flourish into the future. But the development of skills brings benefits beyond the realm of pure business. Employees who see their organisation investing in their long-term development will be more likely to trust leaders and feel happy and cared for—and therefore less likely to quit.
Yet the most significant struggle that leaders in our survey reported having in their upskilling efforts is in identifying the skills that workers will need in the future. The second- and third-most-cited challenges for leaders have to do with using analytics to predict skills gaps. It’s imperative that businesses make investments in systems that inventory and maintain an inventory of current skills and that support visualisation of gaps in future skills. These gaps can be mitigated with a range of measures, including general and targeted upskilling, targeted hiring and onboarding, enhanced on-the-job coaching, and the designing of career paths and succession plans that enable mobility and subsequently build new skills and experiences, enabling retention.
Digitisation will continue to be a top concern for leaders and a source of anxiety for workers. But the pandemic proved the importance of technology in engaging customers, creating new ways of working and even promoting productivity.
The best way to continue rolling out new technology solutions is with transparency and collaboration. Communication can even be personalised based on workforce segmentation. Different stakeholder personas, needs and preferences should be considered in messaging. Co-creation of technology solutions is also critical. Get employees comfortable with being part of the solution, even looking for automation opportunities. Impress the point that transformation will be human-led and tech-enabled. Executives can reassure employees that where technological solutions will be brought in, the impact on humans will not be as calamitous as they might fear. And when jobs will be affected, leaders must handle that, too, with transparency and humanity—not only for workers’ sake but because anxiety affects performance.
Given the many ways in which the pandemic highlighted the importance of organisational resilience and agility, it’s alarming that only 28% of leaders strongly agreed they can rapidly adjust their workforce strategies. Disruption won’t end with the pandemic, so it’s important for businesses to use all of the tools at their disposal to best position themselves for the future.
Some organisations have a cultural preference for building versus borrowing talent or else have difficulty moving quickly. Even when thinking about how to make in-house-only workers more agile, it’s important to increase recruiting capabilities and internal mobility and redeployment. But there is value in having access to ready-to-go, vetted resources for when your needs shift. Leaders looking to make their culture more open to contingent workers must build trust by sharing stories from elsewhere in the market or from their experience that demonstrate how contingent resources can help drive success. They also must emphasise some of the less obvious benefits of a different talent mix, such as the potential to reach more diverse workers and spark creativity with fresh ideas from outside the organisation.
All of this requires the business to develop, deploy and track a common workforce-strategy framework. And it’s essential that HR leaders and senior business executives be on the same page in this effort. Fewer than one-third of our survey respondents strongly agreed that the HR function is effective in developing and delivering their workforce strategy, and this number was even lower among non-HR leaders, at only 15%. HR and other business leaders have some work to do in closing that gap in their perception and increasing those percentages.
In analysing our survey data, we noticed that respondents in the telecommunications, media and technology (TMT) industry were almost always 5 to 10 percentage points above global responses in stating the importance of these six no-regrets moves and strongly agreeing that they were taking action. For instance, 37% of respondents in the TMT industry strongly agreed that they use dynamic planning, compared with 30% globally. On the other hand, respondents in government and the public sector and in energy, utilities and resources (EU&R) were often 5 to 10 percentage points below global responses. For example, those in EU&R were half as likely as their surveyed peers to strongly agree that they can identify the skills the organisation will need in the future due to technological change (13%, compared with 26% globally).
As for countries and regions, China, India, Brazil and the Middle East were generally more optimistic about their current capabilities. For instance, 45% of respondents in India strongly agreed they can anticipate the risks of replacing human work with technology, compared with 21% globally. Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and Japan were generally less optimistic. In Japan, just 12% strongly agreed that workload is manageable, compared with 26% globally. Respondents from the US were generally in line with the overall global percentages.
It makes sense that certain sectors that are either chronically under-resourced, such as government and the public sector, or that are fully in the throes of disruption, such as EU&R, have the least confidence in their abilities and the level of action they have been able to take in these six important areas. It’s also logical, then, that tech-oriented industries such as TMT, which tend to have a professional, in-demand workforce, are more confident of their firms’ abilities and preparedness for the future. Countries and regions that are more optimistic will see that the sentiment is contagious. And a more optimistic workforce will feel free to do their best work and be their best selves.
In September 2021, PwC commissioned a global survey of 3,937 business executives and HR-focused leaders. The survey polled leaders in 26 countries and regions and 28 industries.
Partner & Leader, People and Organisation, PwC India
Tel: +91 124 626 6620