Workers around the world increasingly want greater control over the way they work, a new global study confirms. In fact nearly 60% of workers state they can do their work in less time than 40 hours a week and over 40% are considering moving to jobs with more flexible options. Employees have begun to reassess what they want from their work week. Here’s the key data that you need to know.

How can we solve the talent scarcity paradox? What is the promise of HR tech in solving the problems of diversity, inclusion and engagement? Do junior workers seek out jobs with purpose or a paycheck? How can CHROs prepare for the future of work?


Future Series FU.SE 2021 brings together CHROs and C-suite decision makers every year for extensive conversations about the future of work, the changing human resources landscapes, and the evolving role of CHROs.


The global HR landscape has transformed dramatically since FU.SE was first launched in 2019. This year’s event took on a people-centric focus with the pandemic still at the forefront of people’s thoughts. The agenda concentrated on the radically changing role that human resources is playing in the transformation of companies and people, the integration of technology into all aspects of HR -- and the practical challenges and solutions that come with this.


Human resources has become less of a transactional function and shifted to a truly strategic function, placing people and skills at the centre of business success.


BBC Broadcaster Emma Nelson moderated a variety of sessions that brought together some of the top minds in the future of work space, including Professor Carl Benedikt Frey, Oxford Martin Citi Fellow at the University of Oxford, Stijn Nauwelaerts, Corporate Vice-President, Geo-MCAPS, Human Resources, Microsoft, two of our CEO for One Month winners, and many more. From the evolving role of HR tech to discussions on purpose versus money to insights on talent scarcity, here are the top takeaways from FU.SE 2021.

The future of work requires collaboration with all stakeholders



It’s more important than ever for key stakeholders to come together and reflect on the challenges we face in the world of work. That’s the message Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group, brought to the opening of FU.SE 2021, where hundreds of decision makers gathered to reflect on the past 18 months of turbulence – and look forward to see how the world of work might change.


“The past 18 months have accelerated change. We are living in a very exciting, yet challenging time and we need to find practical and actionable solutions together,” Dehaze said.


Trends that once seemed temporary at the start of the pandemic have now accelerated – and have become the norm. Companies have begun to really work as a whole to achieve new goals.


“It is really attractive and engaging, when employees know what we are all trying to collectively achieve as an organisation which leads to better outcome for the business and better work,” Martine Ferland, CEO of Mercer, said. Ultimately, it’s about making sure the future workforce works for everyone.



Upskilling and Reskilling – it’s all about skills rather than jobs



The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way many C-suite executives look at their talent agenda. There’s a renewed focus, now more than ever, on upskilling and reskilling employees. Instead of looking at past job roles or college degrees, it’s time to shift into a skills-first mindset when hiring top talent.


Technology will be a key driver in training employees for the future, with “digital technology enabling us to get more granular information to identify training opportunity for all workers,” said Stefano Scarpetta, Director Employment Labour and Social Affairs, OECD, during FU.SE 2021.


The career landscape is shifting and changing so quickly now, that many jobs that will exist in the next few years will be brand new, especially green jobs. “With talent and skills evolving the traditional career ladder model is becoming obsolete” said Martine Ferland, CEO of Mercer. Covid has changed the meaning and the purpose of work.


Sunnie J. Groeneveld, Managing Partner, Inspire 925, described upskilling and reskilling as “the silver bullet.” There has been a massive shift in economic sectors experiencing newfound growth, causing new challenges for employers and employees alike. People after the pandemic need reskilling and recalibrating more than ever in order to find new jobs.



Purpose or money? Empowering young people in the next normal



The role of young leaders as a driving force in the workplace is becoming increasingly prevalent. Eva Dutary, Global President, AIESEC, spoke about young people’s ability to challenge the system and the importance in the role of HR in capitalizing the positives that young people can bring to the workplace.


Having a purpose and the importance of cross-cultural collaboration was also a key point of discussion. By working together, people can create fresh ideas that contribute to positive changes in the world. Bridging the intergenerational divide at work is also central to building a successful future for companies. Diversity in teams is essential, the speakers agreed, and senior colleagues should make an effort to engage with junior staff and allow them to play a role in the company’s future as emotionally intelligent digital natives.


The Youth debate during FU.SE also discussed the idea of purpose vs. money. Do future young leaders prefer to have a job that gives them purpose, or a job that pays well? The answer remains complex, depending on who you might ask.


Many young leaders find themselves wondering whether they are making an impact at work, and whether they are passionate about the company’s mission. Some young workers want to place a much bigger emphasis on finding fulfilment and purpose in their workplace, more than perhaps past generations might have wanted.



Can tech answer CHROs prayers?



HR tech is no longer just a tool in the CHRO toolbelt – it’s now a crucial part in building a more diverse and inclusive work environment, speakers argued during the HR Tech FU.SE session. Technology has become an important way for HR professionals to accommodate diverse personalities, promote wellbeing, and help train and develop workers.


Marcus Grüschow, Co-founder, MGME Neurotech, talked at length about how HR tech has the potential to manage staff burnout and mental health through prediction technology, which can be key in identifying problems before people begin to suffer.


Tech can also help enhance hybrid work model by improving connections across remote and flexible teams as well as supporting a collaborative environment that helps employees to feel valued and seen.


“There is a big opportunity to think holistically on how we leverage tech in creating human centred organisations by bringing people together in a positive way,” So-Young Kang, Founder and CEO, Gnowbe, said.



Trust is key for the workplace to evolve



As the future of work evolves, one key element remains steadfast: trust. Trust in the workplace is an extremely important concept for the future world of work. When employees trust their managers, and vice versa, it can help nurture employees and build confidence. Stijn Nauwelaerts, Corporate Vice-President, Geo-MCAPS, Human Resources, Microsoft, believes there will be great value in educating managers “to move away from control to a more empowering role which managers need to have in their DNA.”


Trust can also be an important factor with future leaders. One of the best ways to empower young people is giving them the chance through ‘learn by doing’. It can be a powerful way to help junior workers become more employable, too.


“Trust, responsibility and being given the chance to make mistakes, along with inter-generational collaboration and coaching, is the key to becoming more employable,” Eva Dutary, Global President, AIESEC said.



Preparing for the digital era: A synchronisation challenge



Huge advances in digital technologies have the potential to profoundly reshape the world of work as we know it.


Although the concept at present seems hard to fully comprehend in our current work life, Richard Baldwin, Professor of Economics, IHEID Graduate Institute, explained that “the infiltration of software automation and offshoring of jobs will come into our lives in such a subtle way that eventually using AI will be so pervasive that we will look back and imagine how we ever got along without it.”


The future will be focused on tasks, not occupations. Automation and globalization will change the nature of every job and occupation but will eliminate quite a few. One of the biggest challenges? To synchronise the skills that aren’t in demand against the skills which are.



Inspiring Change and Finding Solutions



The HR landscape has witnessed accelerated trends at a rapid pace, and there is no turning back to how things were pre-pandemic.


The FU.SE 2021 insights revealed how the face of HR is evolving and that upskilling, and reskilling are key to building inclusive, skill-based organisations that are future-proof. Additionally, continuous learning makes employees resilient, especially during turbulent times, strengthening people’s skillsets and making for a healthy labour market.


The challenge for the future is being able to combine newfound flexibility and security. You can join the fourth edition of Future Series FU.SE in 2022.

Photo: Resetting Normal Report 2021

Over the course of the past eighteen months, workers felt more trusted to do their job and managed to balance their work and personal life better than in 2020, our data shows. Of those surveyed, 63% said that their digital and remote working skills improved, and 50% said their work-life balance and time-management got better. Eighty two percent of workers surveyed said the shift to hybrid work has left them feeling as productive or more than ever before.


In some countries around the world, remote work shows no sign of slowing down. Employers continue to signal an increased need and willingness to hire remote workers despite the economy emerging from the pandemic, according to an analysis of IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index survey (PMI) data by the Adecco Group’s digital data product Skill Predict. The number of online job ads that reference remote options has been increasing in Western Europe:


  • 2021 – 12.6%
  • 2020 – 7.3%
  • 2019 – 3.6%



France has seen the largest growth of jobs ads featuring remote options in 2021; the country saw a 500% growth from August 2020 to August 2021. Italy, on the other hand, had the smallest year-over-year growth in remote job ads.


The Great Resignation? Not yet.


In the U.S., 55% of people in the workforce anticipate looking for a new job in the next few months, according to a Bankrate Report. The headlines come as the world shifts to a post-pandemic normal; companies like Google and Apple are signalling their workforce to expect a return to the office in the near future. It’s a jarring number, especially compared to the number of people already searching for new jobs – and jumping ship when they find options with better flexible benefits. It’s a phenomenon that’s been dubbed The Great Resignation.


Is there truly a worldwide Great Resignation on the horizon for office-based workers? Not yet.

Photo: Resetting Normal Report 2021

But the research does show that employees feel more empowered than ever to take control of their lives – and that they have begun to reassess what’s truly important to them at work. People want more flexible working arrangements, opportunities for development and outcome-based assessments from their managers.


It’s especially top of mind given that during the last 18 months, hours worked increased by 14% compared to 2020, with 63% of workers saying they work more than 40 hours per week.


The catch? Six out of ten (67%) of those workers say they would be able to complete their work in less than 40 hours. The research found that 72% of those surveyed around the globe said employers should revisit the length of the working week – and the hours they expect their employees to work.



Photo: Resetting Normal Report 2021

More workers want their progress measured by outcome instead of hours worked. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said work contracts should focus more on meeting the needs of the role instead meeting a certain number of hours.


Eight in ten, or 81% of leaders, agree with that. Yet only 36% of non-managers say leaders are assessing them on outputs and results.


Leaders are failing to meet employees’ expectations when it comes to measuring their performance. And leaders recognise the challenge. Almost half of those in management positions say they have found it difficult to support and guide the team towards focusing on achieving goals and assessing their performance based on results rather than hours worked.


Photo: Resetting Normal Report 2021

People want to see and feel opportunity


Flexibility is not the only cause for employees’ great re-evaluation of priorities. There is an increasing discontent with career and development opportunities.


Only 34% of non-managers worldwide are satisfied with career prospects at their company and less than 4 in 10 non-managers believe their company is assessing their skills and effectively investing in upskilling. Less than half of them believe the company has a strategy to upskill workers in the skills needed for the future.

Photo: Resetting Normal Report 2021

However, there is a clear appetite to learn new skills: 66% workers believe they need to train and gain new skills to stay employable in the years ahead and over 6 in 10 workers are learning new skills.


Building an inclusive, flexible future

Companies need to create a hybrid model that encourages and fosters a new normal for all individuals – and acknowledges that “one size does not fit all.”

Measuring employee performance based solely on time spent working or online is outdated. Instead, companies need to provide support, resources, and coaching to managers. Using technology to create clear and personalized scoring cards, ongoing analysis, feedback processes, and collaborative and adaptive actions can help them set better goals and assess people’s performance based on outcomes and results.

The time is now for organisations to reconnect with their workforce rather than hastily turn to external hiring out of fear of a mass resignation. During the last 12 months, people have become more autonomous, agile, adaptable and proactive taking it upon themselves to get new skills. They are ready for change, and they are looking for more agency, career development, mobility opportunities or upskilling and reskilling into the next chapters.

Companies must use the momentum to re-assess their talent and put those new skills to use. Not only will this help future-proof the organisation, but to also make people re-discover their strengths and reconnect with their purpose.

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