Workplace Trends That Will Continue for Years to Come

Disruptions to the World of Work were underway long before the pandemic accelerated the velocity of change. The vast majority of companies are now navigating different ways of approaching how they structure their workplace and workforce in this challenging environment. This journey is driven by two fundamental forces. First is the opportunity to adjust the relationship between smart organizations and their search for top talent introduced by a digital revolution. The second fundamental force is the often ad-hoc and sometimes untested tactical response to the pandemic that condensed years of patient testing by HR and talent professionals into a six-month crash course in how to thrive in the new world of work.

“This is a good time to recall the words of naturalist Charles Darwin that, ‘it is not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change,’” observes Bert Miller, president and CEO of Management Recruiters International (MRI), one of the world’s leading executive search firms with over 300 offices worldwide. “Today’s resilient leaders must strive to navigate uncertainty, promote flexibility, and shift organizational priorities in order to build a solid foundation for the new World of Work.”

Miller points to changes that he is driving within his own organization and his industry and points to a recent study by thought leader Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory firm, which outlined nine trends that will impact the future of work after the pandemic. Among the nine “large scale shifts” that Gartner’s HR practice has identified, are these four key elements:

Increase in remote work. Gartner analysis indicated that 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part-time compared to 30% of employees pre-pandemic. Gartner further identified that almost 75% of CFOs intend to increase remote work compared to 30% prior to the pandemic. “Fears of lost productivity due to remote work have all but vanished,” says Miller. “The fact is that many companies have seen increased productivity, lower fixed operating costs, and higher employee satisfaction. That’s a powerful combination with few downsides.”

Expansion of contingent workers. The study revealed that 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure and workforce flexibility tool. “Implementing a flexible staffing strategy that includes interim employees in the mix — no matter what industry you’re in — is a key component of dealing with change,” Miller believes. “Companies can effectively staff up or down, and back up or down again, to meet the challenges they face.”

Emergence of new top-tier employers. Gartner identified the need for organizations to create a compelling, truthful, and enduring employer brand. Gartner emphasized the need to consider how decisions made today address immediate concerns during the pandemic and impact the employer brand long term. “It’s especially important that the employer brand you put out there caters to Millennials and Gen Z as those two generations will soon make up the majority of workers globally,” advises Miller. “They care about transparency in their company culture and the opportunity to have a social impact on their community.”

Shift from designing for efficiency to designing for resilience. Gartner reported that prior to the COVID-19 crisis, 55% of organizational redesigns were focused on streamlining roles, supply chains, and workflows to increase efficiency. On the downside, they noted that this has created fragile systems. “Firms are looking for talented players who demonstrate resilience as much as they do efficiency,” says Miller. “They need people who bring not just functional skills and cultural fit but who also possess the resilience to thrive in the new World of Work.” MRINetwork’s transformation from an analog recruitment organization based on the phone to a digital global enterprise was underway well before the pandemic. “The urgency for change driven by our clients reacting to the pandemic simply accelerated the rate of adoption of many new tools that help our clients enhance their employer brand, strategically integrate interim professionals into their organizations, and master the art of virtual interviewing and hiring,” concludes Miller. “Now more than ever, organizations need to preserve and create value for all of their stakeholders by supporting their people, their industry, and the overall economy.”