Almost daily, I read articles about the future of work, about the innovative ways companies are improving their approaches not only to talent attraction but also to retention. Much of this is inspiring and fills me with hope for a shared future that is continuously more dynamic, effective and prosperous.
But how many of these ideas will make a lasting move from concept to reality? Over the short term, I’m honestly finding it hard to be optimistic about innovation in the workplace, for a few reasons. Since 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces have suffered from significant disruption, and it’s still too early to declare remote work either a success or a failure. There’s change fatigue—workers, managers and HR teams have all been through more than enough novelty and uncertainty. Also, when facing a potential economic recession, businesses are likely to stick with the status quo instead of taking on complex, untested talent strategies, especially if the costs are significant.
And yet, every organization faces talent shortages and retention risks, basically all the time. A recession won’t stop employees from continuing to expect more, whether that’s opportunities to learn and grow, avoid burnout, or improve workplace equity, diversity and accessibility. But if companies follow the usual playbook of layoffs and wage freezes, stretching human capital as far as it can go, cutting back on diversity-related initiatives—what happens to the workforce in the long term? Will we have financial stability, growth opportunities, innovation, new markets— but no one to do the work?
I can’t stress how important it is for organizations of all kinds to get started building the future of work today. Put those new concepts to the test and stick with them until you know they aren’t measuring up. We all have to proactively prepare for tomorrow and make it happen. Waiting and reacting just aren’t enough.
Over the coming months, you’ll see a series of posts from me about talent innovation—not to reiterate or critique all those new ideas but instead to take a closer look at the operational and legal considerations. The questions I’ll focus on through this series include:
- What are the problems we’re trying to solve?
- There are no quick wins, but just how much heavy lifting are we talking about?
- There are legal risks involved in any change to the workplace. Are they manageable?
- There’s no legal requirement to change, but should we invest in change anyway?
- Will the changes we’re considering address, anticipate and prepare for new law and policy on the horizon?
In terms of topic organization, this series will first address dynamic, project-based teams. After that, I’ll explore issues of workplace accessibility; workplace mental health; how to measure diversity; the implications of social responsibility and human rights; and, finally, the growing trend of working from anywhere.
Legal and operational risks are not, of course, the only factors for you to consider. As you plan for the future, you will also have to think about the technology, financial costs, compensation, programs and long term strategic goals, which will be specific to your organization. If you have questions, KPMG advisory and legal teams are available to help you talk things through.
For now, I’m looking forward to doing the work. See you again soon.
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