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What are 'good work' goals and why should organizations care? 

A group or colleagues smiling around a laptop: How good work and workplaces can be a reality for all.

How good work and workplaces can be a reality for all. Image: Unsplash/Brooke Cagle

Kate Bravery
Global Advisory and Insight Leader, Career and Global Business Solutions, Mercer (Marsh McLennan)
Diderik Joubert
Project Fellow - Good Work, World Economic Forum Geneva
Ravin Jesuthasan
Senior Partner and Global Leader for Transformation Services, Mercer (MMC)
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Future of Work

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Changing patterns in the employment and workforce landscape mean that employers and employees must adapt their relationships to make workplaces productive and safe environments for all.
  • Work-force centric operations are crucial for organizations to attract and retain talent.
  • The World Economic Forum's Good Work Framework provides goals and approaches for organizations to adopt to remain relevant to present and future employees.

Talent shortages, labour market tensions, rampant inflation and the resurgence of unionization across many industry sectors have highlighted a profound shift in the social contract between employers and employees. Mercer's 2023 Global Talent Trends report indicated that 50% of c-suite executives showed that enabling new ways of work would be a critical focus area for 2023 to restore balance to the management-labour compact.

Organizations need to reinvent their proposition and business model, centred on creating a workforce-centric enterprise and what's economically viable, to realize the future of work and remain attractive to employers.

The World Economic Forum's Good Work Framework, published in May 2022, drills into the human capital component of the "S" in ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) and provides a foundation. The framework gives organizations a platform for a balanced baseline offering coupled with more ambitious and futuristic aims.

Have you read?

5 key aims of Good Work Framework

The Good Work Framework has five overarching objectives, each with one primary and three secondary goals. It also contains defined metrics for each goal, which organizations can use to measure themselves in a consistent, standard and industry-agnostic manner.

In addition to the metrics now available on the Forum's website, target-setting guidelines are there to support organizations in defining their commitments to the good work goals they wish to advance. There is also guidance on where, when and how to report efforts.

Good and decent work of the future, which is noted as part of Goal 8 of the UN's sustainable development goals, requires organizations to comply with human rights, such as eliminating forced or child labour, and address issues such as:

  • Workplace flexibility for all.
  • Responsible and ethical deployment of algorithms and new technology.
  • An engrained culture of diversity and inclusion.
  • Well-being.
  • Equitable and sufficient pay for a decent standard of living.

Whilst some of these characteristics of good work seem ambitious, much progress has already been made.

Paving the way

Unilever is a leading example of an organization that has embraced the future of work as an opportunity, not a risk. It has committed to ensuring that employees in its direct supply chain earn a living wage. It has progressive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and its U-work programme – which allows contract workers the benefits usually linked to permanent work – challenges traditional employment models.

Unilever is not alone. Standard Chartered's rigorous efforts in identifying its sunset and sunrise skills – respectively, roles in decline and those that need to be grown – and subsequently upskilling or reskilling employees help transition workers to new opportunities.

Agility's fair pay commitments, HSBC's expansive inclusion initiatives, Schneider Electric's efforts towards improving its employees' mental health and overall well-being and so many more initiatives are all tell-tale signs that organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the need to reinvent work to be more equitable, ethical and human.

Further examples illustrate the rapidly changing workplace. Successful four-day workweek pilots, increased demand for remote working and legislation to provide a framework and rights around it and the increasing number of contingent workers are some of the trends indicative of what is changing.

However, innovation in work models must be coupled with well-being and inclusion efforts. Today, just 56% of employees say they offer flexible working for all and 54% have no plans to offer any form of work security to gig workers, according to the GTT pulse study 2023.

What workers want

So, what do employees want? In Mercer's 2022 Global Talent Trends study, employees rated, after job security, organizational brand or reputation as the second top reason they joined their current employer (a jump from ninth place before the pandemic).

Although an organization's corporate reputation is the result of many factors, the organization's reputation as a "good employer" weighs heavily on someone's mind when considering employment, especially regarding their track record on well-being, flexible working, development and inclusiveness.

This insight provides an enormous opportunity for employers to distinguish themselves as a partner instead of just an employer and improve their attractiveness for future employees while simultaneously improving current employees' lives. What constitutes good work and healthy work environments is a changing landscape – Mercer's The Truth About What Employees Want research shows that living wage is a topic most employees want their company to make commitments around and reproductive rights are now a consideration.

Standard metrics

The Good Work Framework delivers standard metrics to measure progress against the Good Work goals and normalization around target setting and reporting for these goals allows future and current employees to evaluate organizations to make a more informed decision confidently. With the increased cost of living being top of employers' and employees' minds, it is tempting to move one's focus from longer-term, seemingly complex initiatives listed above to balance shorter-term challenges such as affordability and salary increases.

Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna once said that "You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather…but you can when it's raining." The quote speaks to how you can prosper in adverse circumstances and is a compelling reason for those organizations wanting to lead the pack to make solid commitments towards making good work a reality for all.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Forum InstitutionalJobs and the Future of Work
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