I'm Still Optimistic

January 6, 2021 Peter Bentley

Last March, I wrote a piece on the Optimist's View of Coronavirus, focusing on how it could be the catalyst for workforce change. Some of the work is documented in our Accelerate Your Workforce into the Future white paper.

There was renewed energy and analysis on how we may equip the workforce for change more effectively (indeed, I would suggest this is what ‘future of work’ is really about). With this in mind, I thought it would be worth sharing some quick observations based on completed work and also conversations had over the nine months that followed.

Different approaches to similar problems. There was a clear spectrum. For some, ‘change’ meant:

  • Nowcasting - virtual working and location strategies which sometimes evolved into flexible working weeks.
  • Firefighting - diversity agendas and planning.
  • Forecasting - future skills and mobility initiatives.
  • Big Bang - wholesale reviews on future of work requirements, encompassing the above.

Starting with the why? The reason for change ranged from:

  • Staying safe - business continuity
  • Staying afloat - efficiency/cost savings aligned to an assumed/expected drop in performance
  • Being considerate - employee safety, wellness and engagement
  • Staying ahead - seizing opportunities to grow or rethink people models

Different approaches to similar problems. The approach taken to understand these issues ranged from:

  • Data driven top-down - workforce analysis and benchmark to appreciate the impact before engaging the workforce (mostly seen in banks and large institutional firms)
  • Bottoms-up employee driven - ask your people to understand if it is a problem before doing anything (mostly seen in technology and smaller firms)
  • Workshops and think tanks - analyzing and engaging the workforce in a measured way on specific controlled topics (a few insurance and pharmaceutical examples)

The outcome - much more to do. The ‘New Better’ is still a work in progress. We are starting to see examples and evidence pointing to policies around flexible working, options to work from anywhere, job sharing and reduced weeks (with varying adjustments to pay). However, there is still lots more to do. I’m never sure how much new policies lead to awareness, take up and impactful change. I would also point out that the future of work does not stop at remote working.

Last year was horrible for many reasons but I’m still optimistic. 2021 will be the year where meaningful change will become an industry-wide agenda rather than the occasional news-worthy press release.

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About the Author

Peter Bentley

Peter Bentley is the global commercial officer with Aon’s Human Capital Solutions practice and focuses on building workforce agility. Peter has worked with firms on their approach to client strategy, distribution and how they leverage digital solutions to empower their workforce for the future. He has developed and built a number of data / digital platforms aimed at augmenting workflow, aiding decision making and transforming client engagement.

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