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Workers and employers alike are facing a world of uncertainty. From an incoming economic recession to the green transition, from major societal issues manifesting in the office to The Great Attrition, there is plenty to contemplate. What will the jobs of the future look like? Will we ever catch up and be ready for what's to come? It's never been more important for the world of work to come together and face these challenges together. To do that, concerns must be voiced, stories must be told, and informed decisions must be made. 


The Adecco Group's Global Workforce of the Future Report 2022 is the latest instalment in the group's annual survey of the workforce. It compiles data gathered from over 34,000 workers across 25 countries and reveals the key trends to follow over the coming years for desk and non-desk workers, as well as managers and non-managers.


Introducing the report in a live webinar was The Adecco Group's Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Valerie Beaulieu-James. She was joined by Christine Graeff, Global Head of People at Credit Suisse, Krish Shankar, EVP Group Head of HR Development for Infosys, and Neena Potenza, Global Strategic Initiative Manager at the Ingka Group. Together, they laid out the main themes from the report and added their insight and experience. Here are the three main points to take away from the session.


1. The career lies in the journey


Skills and career development hold a pivotal place in The Adecco Group's Global Workforce of the Future Report 2022. Not only are skills key in the context of the Great Attrition, the green transition and sustainability, they should be viewed as the main vector of individual career journeys.


For Neena Potenza’s IKEA staff, skills development was non-negotiable when the pandemic hit. 


"Overnight our stores became fulfilment centres. Restaurants closed, we were really having to redirect our resources and skills," she explained. "Something like 65,000 co-workers had to be reskilled in how to fulfil customer orders from online demand. 6,000 customer support co-workers were suddenly tapping into remote selling skills, meeting the customers online."


From his perspective in the tech industry, Krish believes that skills are evolving rapidly and that they can have a short half-life. For employees and businesses to progress together along those lines, three things are crucial: foresight, training and monitoring. On that final point, Infosys had a fascinating solution.


"We've created something called a Digital Quotient. The DQ is made up of all the skills that you learn, the kinds of projects that you do. It really motivates the workforce to learn more, and also contribute more." Putting a trackable number on skills and incentivising workers to increase that number through self-agency is an innovative way to approach learning. 


At Credit Suisse, 44% of people who stay with the company expect career development, Christine said. This is especially true of younger workers who tend to see their career as an individual journey to bolster their profile and skillset. This can lead to what is often seen as a lack of employer loyalty, but it is also an opportunity for employers to boost career development and tap into the career ambitions of these younger workers. 


"They will tend to stay longer if they feel that they're being developed," she explained.  


Seeing workers holistically from the moment of onboarding onwards means "it’s about understanding who our employees are; understanding the various elements and not just focusing on the last job,” Christine said.


In other words, long gone are the days of lifetime employment at 'the firm'. Hiring workers isn't about filling a gap in the roster, it's about viewing them as people on a journey. Employers are a chapter on that journey. It might sound reductive, but it also means they have agency over where the journey goes from there.


2. Flexibility as the new normal


Flexible working means different things to different employees, whether it’s the freedom to work from home or the agency to negotiate shifts for those who can’t. 


Starting with the perspective of non-desk workers in the retail sector, Neena recounted the role flexibility has played in her organisation of late. In an experiment in the Netherlands, IKEA is testing ‘shift bidding’ to enable staff to work when it better suits them. 


"It’s bringing in the involvement of the many co-workers and getting individuals more involved to really hone in on some of those private needs," Neena explained. "We should dare to explore - dare to test and try flexibility in this new reality. Flexibility among our co-workers has very much come up as a critical enabler to stay."


While Krish agreed on the benefits of working from home for desk workers, he also pointed out a downside to giving up on the office. 


"There is a school of thought that say if you don’t come together in an office at least a couple of times few times per week, you’re losing out on the identity, the culture and the team bonding. We also lose a lot of learning and creative development because you learn a lot from people around you."


The data in the report is crystal clear, however: 59% of respondents already have flexibility in their work or are moving jobs to get it.


Christine’s view is that flexibility is here to stay: "There was this old school of thought that flexibility at work did not work and we’ve shown it does." 


She points out that it encourages the recognition of workers based on merit rather than simply on time spent in the office. In turn, this can have a fundamentally positive effect on the careers of under-represented groups in the workplace, thereby indirectly touting the cause of diversity and inclusion.


"But there’s also a lot to be said for coming back to the office," she countered. "How do we make it more engaging? What is it there to do? Walking the floors and talking to colleagues actually enables you to be pretty creative, through serendipity. Opportunity can emerge from a chance encounter in the corridor."


The common thread through the discussion was that, by definition, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to flexibility. Employers who think they can put in place a hybrid working policy and move on as usual are sorely mistaken. Flexibility at work will be a continuous exercise of listening to individual needs and finding the middle ground between employee desires and business goals. 


3. Mind over money


Aside from salary, mental health and wellbeingwere outlined as major factors at play in competition for top talent. The R U OK? programme utilised by the Ingka Group is a great example of an employer putting stock in a partnership to support the wellbeing of its workers. 


"It’s about creating space to talk. How to help each other take away the stigmas of mental health and to create an environment of psychological safety where it’s OK to talk," she described.


Krish believes the pandemic has made workplaces more sensitive to inclusivity, diversity and gender issues. At Infosys, a Samaritans Group encourages discussion between staff and works in partnership with professional counsellors if cases are beyond their capabilities. 


"These are employees who are trained in the first-aid of mental health," Krish explained. The company has also implemented management self-assessment tools to check for issues with overwork and burnout.


Christine believes managers need to create "a culture of being available for employees to open up - and also be mindful and offer small nudges to help workers." Drawing upon her own experiences, she emphasized the importance of recovery and staying in tune with our own needs as well as that of others. 


A recurring question in the realm of mental health is whether these issues have actually been exacerbated in recent years or whether they are just taking a bigger spot in frontline discourse. While this question isn't answered in the report, the data unequivocally shows that employees will work where they are happy, engaged and looked after - whether that means changing jobs or staying where they are. Make no mistake, this isn't a fad. Mental health and wellbeing will remain a key piece in the puzzle.


Miss the webinar? Watch it below!