Although organizations have shown tremendous resilience in surviving shocks over the last two years, they must now reset to stay relevant
The fragility of the post-pandemic recovery shows that the COVID-19 era of complexity is not over. Living in a heightened risk environment – where risks and opportunities intersect in unexpected ways – is a new reality. Just when the world thought that the pandemic was behind us, a fresh wave of challenges hit businesses and economies. These range from geopolitical tensions to supply chain constraints, high inflation in most countries, the great resignations or renegotiation of social contracts between employers and employees, and of course the resurgence of the virus in China followed by draconian zero-COVID lockdowns in industrial hubs disrupting global business.
Nevertheless, organizations have shown tremendous resilience in surviving shocks, and now they must reset for staying relevant. The challenge is to remain relevant beyond the crisis. In addition to understanding new business forces and market dynamics, staying relevant requires an awareness of changing sentiments and values in workers, customers, and investors. Which values do stakeholders want to be upheld? Which Good Work Standards, as identified by the World Economic Forum, should each organization focus on?
Employees around the world agree; 96% expect their company to pursue a sustainability agenda. Even more striking is that one in five employees says working for a company that is misaligned with their personal values is putting them at risk of burnout – reveals a Global Talent Trend study by consulting firm, Mercer.
Steer with standards
As a record number of employees switched jobs last year, what influences people to join a new company is critical. After job security, organizational brand and reputation is now the #2 reason for which people joined their current employer (a jump from #9before the pandemic). Current and prospective employees expect a company to be clear on what it stands for. They look for company values to shine through in its brand, reward philosophy, benefits, and overall employee experience.
In the event of another economic downturn, C-suite executives plan to make strategic investments and not only cut costs. There is an interesting comparison to the last time executives had to contemplate an impending downturn, with fewer planning to leverage variable staffing models (down from 39% in 2019 to 29% today) and reduce headcount (down from 30% to 26% today). This reflects a pandemic-era lesson – that companies can be nimbler in difficult times by retaining people who know the culture and are already committed to the journey – and acknowledges the unique challenges of a tight economic climate combined with a hot labor market.
Talent attraction and retention are also top of mind for executives, with two-thirds (66%) mentioning a labour shortage crisis, according to the survey report. HR’s priorities for 2022 are well-aligned with executive concerns. At the top of the list is improving workforce planning to better inform buy/build/borrow talent strategies. At the bottom of the list are leveraging a variable staffing model, addressing brand-fit for key populations, and tapping into non-local or non-traditional talent pools.
Companies with a heart
Employees are expecting organizations today to have a heart, to come off mute on what they stand for, and to make measurable progress against goals relevant to all stakeholders – from ESG to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to co-creating the new shape of work. They are striving to become more relatable, taking on the values and personalities of their people and their communities. These relatable organizations have homed in on a few key success drivers: resetting for stakeholder relevance, building adaptive capability in their people and processes, figuring out how to work in partnership and tackle inequalities, driving outcomes on employee health and total well-being, incentivizing employability, and harnessing energy for the collective good.
Reset for relevance
The events of the past two years have left an indelible mark on investor, employee, and consumer attitudes. The new world of work – more nuanced and personalized – demands a reset of priorities. It requires new skills around listening, learning, and adapting to identify and address unmet needs. Companies that fail to listen and adapt will lose the ability to raise capital, attract and retain talent, and stay relevant. Relatable organizations are finding their voice on what they stand for and setting standards for “good work” – such as fair pay, equitable conditions, and flexibility for all. They are using their voice for good, by stepping up as an ally in human rights and reflecting the values of all their stakeholders. They relentlessly listen to what drives consumer and employee behavior and build cultures and practices that are values-driven and adaptive by design.