Future of Work

9 leaders reveal how to make decent work a reality for everyone

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On the World Day for Decent Work (#WDDW), what do global leaders say about the prospects of good work for everyone? Image: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Aidan Manktelow
Insights Lead, Inclusive Business, World Economic Forum

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  • Ahead of the World Day for Decent Work (#WDDW), we asked leaders in global organizations for their take on what is needed to make good work a reality for everyone.
  • Key themes that emerged are: dignity of labour; living wages; universal social protection; applying standards for contractors, sub-contractors and supply chain; finding solutions for the platform economy; driving reskilling and upskilling; rethinking how we work; and ensuring worker empowerment.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and accelerating automation are intensifying the need for the promotion of “good work”. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World Day for Decent Work (WDDW), highlighting renewed pressure on governments to put decent work at the centre of actions to bring back economic growth and build a new global economy that puts people first.

The rise of remote work has created more flexibility for many people. Some 83% of companies say that they will offer more opportunities to work remotely because of COVID-19. But work-life boundaries have blurred and there has been growing concern about the impact of new ways of working on physical and mental health.

Automation requires greater efforts on reskilling and upskilling—on average, companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling of six months or less. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and minorities demands new efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Meanwhile, non-standard forms of employment continue to expand, notably in the platform economy, and raise concerns about predictability and security.

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As organizations transition from the COVID-19 crisis into the post-pandemic future of work, there is the potential for considerations around well-being, purpose and new ways of working to come together to create a “new deal” for workers.

A number of leading multinational companies are paving the way through bold commitments in specific areas. These include offering hybrid work arrangements with increased flexibility, large-scale reskilling and upskilling programmes for all employees, comprehensive support for workplace mental health, pushing for their supplies to pay living wages, setting strong targets for gender balance and providing generous parental leave.

Resetting the Future of Work Agenda, October 2020 Image: World Economic Forum and Mercer

‘We’re trying to empower our employees to do their jobs efficiently’

Donald Allan Jr., President and CFO, Stanley Black & Decker

Our company has thrived through many radical transformations in the world over the last 175+ years, but I think what we are seeing now and will see going forward will be the most dramatic shift to navigate. We are trying to define for employees what good work looks like in the future, including how we empower people to do their jobs efficiently, what skills and teams are necessary to achieve success, and what that success looks like. We are focusing not just on the results, but how the work gets done aligned with our purpose. There has never been a greater need for empathetic leadership.

'The ability to contribute to society is intimately tied to an individual’s self-worth and dignity'

Kate Bravery, Global Advisory and Insight Leader, Mercer (MMC)

The ability to contribute to society is intimately tied to an individual’s self-worth and dignity. Until we take a systemic view on the jobs and skills needed to collectively reset the future of work, societies will not thrive.

Part of this is preparing for the technological changes in different industries, part of this is figuring out how to blend learning, working and living into a sustainable proposition, and part of this is updating our mental models of what is decent work and who is eligible to do this work.

Without progress on these three fronts, new works standards such as fair access to jobs, living wages, diversity and inclusion will fail to drive action.

‘Dignity of labour and full employment are at the centre of a just recovery’

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

The dignity of labour with full employment is at the centre of a just recovery because if people have work, they have hope and therefore trust, and so to rebuild democratic societies you must put jobs first. You must invest in jobs, but they must be climate friendly jobs, with a just transition for workers and communities.

You must have rights: the UN principles on business and human rights, which include labour rights, must be mandated. Transparency is needed for the workforce that is hidden in supply chains. For the platform economy, we need occupational health and safety, a minimum living wage or income and maximum hours of work, so that people can balance work and life. And that needs to be underscored by universal social protection for times of crisis. That's what we have to see if we're serious about an inclusive future on a stable planet with stable communities and stable economies.

‘ We’ve committed to ensuring that everyone who directly provides goods or services to Unilever earns a living wage’

Patrick Hull, VP Future of Work, Unilever

Social inequality is on the rise and that’s bad for society and bad for business. We are committed to working with our ecosystem of suppliers to address low wages in global supply chains. We can’t do this alone so we are engaging with peer companies, civil society, trade unions, international organisations and governments to drive change. The world of work is changing but the constant needs to be a foundation of decent work and fair pay is critical to this.

‘We can rewire how we think about work to drive innovation, inclusion and performance’

Tanuj Kapilashrami, Group Head of Human Resources, Standard Chartered

The future of work is no longer a distant proposition. By embracing the opportunities, and adapting and responding quickly to the change, we have the potential to rewire how we think about work and the workplace – ultimately driving innovation, inclusion and high-performance. By offering choice, flexibility and supporting colleagues to learn, develop and grow, we see an immense opportunity to provide the optimal experience for the workforce of the future.

Image: Statista

‘The new work philosophy will be embedded in agility and flexibility together with empathy’

Atrayee Sarkar, Vice-President, Human Resource Management, Tata Steel

There comes a time for major breakthroughs in the way work, workforce and workplace undergoes a threshold change. I think the time is now, with the pandemic and Industry 4.0 giving us the opportunity to reorganize ourselves. We will need to realign our strategy, systems and structures with changing realities. The new work philosophy will be embedded in agility and flexibility together with empathy.

‘Companies should make disclosures on how they are creating good jobs’

Bhushan Sethi, Partner, Joint Global Leader, People & Organization, PwC

‘Business’ can make this a reality by working with policy makers to build a better future of work and address the following:

1. Develop a common global definition of good jobs which includes safety, dignity, fair pay and motivation.

2. Publicly report on how they are investing in the creation, evolution and protection of good jobs – to supplement human capital or universal ESG disclosures.

3. Enable sustainable good jobs with a deliberate focus on investing in employee reskilling and wellbeing for marginalized or underrepresented communities.

4. Customize solutions to meet local community needs – for example Metro Atlanta Chamber working with local business’ to advance racial equity for its Black population through access to education, reskilling and employment.

‘We are removing barriers such as unnecessary degree requirements that create disparities’

Carin Taylor, Chief Diversity Officer, Workday

Here are a few things areas we are focused on at Workday: partnering with organizations on social justice issues focused on equity for all, removing unnecessary barriers (such as unnecessary degree requirements in job descriptions) that cause disparities for certain communities, culture, wellbeing, value inclusion, belonging, and equity for all, listening to the employee voice, as well as agility (one size doesn’t fit all) and the ability to flex as needed. We are also partnering to upskill and reskill people in under-served communities, creating empowerment where it may not exist today.

‘We’re looking at how to help young people get their foot in the door in the job market’

Kara Wenger, Head of Work Sustainability, Zurich Insurance

At Zurich Insurance Group we have a global commitment to develop our people and offer career choices internally, prioritizing our in-house skills and establishing a sense of shared ownership in getting fit for the future. This is driven by innovative strategic workforce planning, global reskilling/upskilling initiatives and talent marketplaces. We're also looking in particular at how we can drive youth employability to help young people to get their foot in the door in the job market - at Zurich Insurance but also broadly in the community. We think more of these initiatives are critical given the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on young people and that partnering is crucial.

Image: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs 2020

The Partnership for New Work Standards

In this context, the World Economic Forum has launched the Partnership for New Work Standards, a global, cross-industry initiative for forward-thinking companies, with input from unions and independent experts, to set the new benchmark for a healthy, resilient and equitable future of work.

Participating companies are:

  • Co-creating and endorsing a framework for good work standards.
  • Putting in place a future of work strategy that will be reviewed annually at board level.
  • Raising the bar for their sector through explicit commitments and reporting on improvements made.

The Forum’s New Economy and Society Platform, in collaboration with Mercer, will provide an integrated hub to support implementation where companies can champion best practices and collaborate on an ongoing basis for impact at scale.

Related topics:
Future of WorkFuture of Work

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