Deloitte: Top 5 workforce trends for 2021

By Janet Brice
The top 5 trends identified by Deloitte reveal how organisations can harness the talent within their workforce to navigate uncertainty post-pandemic...

Top five trends which can best draw out human strengths within a workforce and help an organisation thrive and survive in the future are explored by consultants Deloitte .

These top trends are discussed in the new report Diving deeper, Five workforce trends to watch in 2021 and focus on the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and how organisations can harness the talent within their workforce to navigate the uncertainty ahead.

“While executives have long recognised that well-being is important, the COVID-19 pandemic brought home how significant it really is,” said Jen Fisher, Deloitte US chief well-being officer and co-author of the well-being section. 'Work and life, health, safety, and well-being became inseparable,' she said.

Highlights from the comprehensive report include:

1. Designing work for well-being

“The design of well-being into work is a practice that must be developed, strengthened and flexed over time to be effective. As work itself changes at a rapid pace, the ways that an organisation supports individual and team well-being must adapt in tandem,” said Fisher.

Seven out of 10 executives responding to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey said their organisation’s shift to remote work had a positive impact on well-being. Workers reported the top three objectives of work transformation should be improving quality, increasing innovation, and improving worker well-being.

According to the report organisations looking to build well-being into work should consider actions, policies, and mandates at the following three levels:

  • Individual: Workers should take the initiative in setting their own boundaries and making their well-being needs understood. 
  • Team: The power of teams comes from their ability to connect people with each other to unleash their collective capabilities. 
  • Organisational: Leaders have a responsibility not only to invest in well-being, but also to make well-being a consideration as important as any other factor that affects the bottom line.

2. Beyond reskilling

“The growing prevalence of worker agency and choice during the pandemic showed that, when given the chance to align their interests and passions with organisational needs, workers can fulfil their potential in ways that leaders may never have known they could, positioning the organisation to thrive in the long term,” says the report.

The success of work transformation depends on an organisation’s ability to unlock human potential to define and deliver new outcomes which can be done in the following ways: 

  • Shift the supply and demand equation

Build talent marketplaces that address the workforce supply and demand equation. Cultivate worker passions to solve problems and reward employees. 

  • Centre workforce planning on potential

Shift workforce planning approaches away from a reliance on top-down mandates, providing more agency to workers themselves. Empower workers to reimagine what, how, and where work gets done. Consider AI-enabled technologies.

  • Drive toward real-time, dynamic action

Gather and act on workforce data that provides a real-time view of workers’ skills across the entire talent ecosystem. Remember that teams are becoming the driving unit of organisational performance. 

3. Superteams

During the pandemic, organisations doubled down on teams and teaming as a survival strategy to enable adaptability and speed. 

“Leaders now have the opportunity to use what they have learned to construct “superteams” that pair people with technology to re-architect work in more human ways,” comment Deloitte.

To create an environment where superteams flourish, executives should consider the following:

  • Set audacious goals 
  • Don’t stop with envisioning new ways to achieve those outcomes 
  • Avoid the instinct to use technologies only as an enabler for the work you already do
  • Use technology to design work in ways that allow humans to perform at their best
  • Make the creation of superteams a cross-organisational imperative

“Superteams are most powerful when organisations use technology to empower teams in a way that makes work better for humans and makes humans better at work,” says the report.

4. Governing workforce strategies

“The need for organisations to better understand their workforce is under urgent pressure from unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime health, economic, and social challenges,” says the report.

In Deloitte’s 2020 paper, Returning to work in the future of work: Embracing purpose, potential, perspective, and possibility during COVID-19, the consultants encourage organisations to ask different questions and measure and report the answers in real time. 

“These forward-looking insights, not backward-looking, stale data, can help organisations understand how to achieve new outcomes by harnessing workforce potential and transforming work. 

“The priority moving forward is to ensure that organisations’ efforts around workforce strategies, data and insights span the range of stakeholders and that the lens is wide enough to include both short- and long-term measures of progress against economic and societal goals.”

5. A memo to HR

Confidence in HR to navigate the changes required in the next three to five years following the COVID-19 pandemic is riding high among executives with 42% saying they are confident in their ability.

COVID-19 has earned many HR organisations the right to be bolder in orchestrating work throughout the enterprise. To seize this opportunity, HR needs to reorient its mission and mindset towards shaping future success by taking the lead in re-architecting work and reimagining the workforce and workplace accordingly,” comments Deloitte.


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