Three converging workplace trends — automation, open talent pools and increased flexibility — are creating a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform how work gets done. New work models present an appealing possibility of an energizing employee experience, increased output and reduced cost. Yet this combination of results could remain just a possibility if you don’t recognize that, alongside the understandable appeal, comes less obvious risk that must be managed.
Many of the benefits of reimagining how, when and where work gets done have been discussed extensively: lower real estate costs for companies, less need for travel, greater schedule and location flexibility for individuals. Much less has been debated about how new work models will also reshape an organization’s risk profile and demand a different approach to risk management. Most notably, it will require a partnership of your business and functional leaders to monitor new intertwined vulnerabilities, assess risk tolerance and ensure the company and employees are adequately protected from unforeseen and interconnected consequences.
Much less has been debated about how new work models will also reshape an organization’s risk profile and demand a different approach to risk management.
We believe that if you get this right your organization will gain a sustainable advantage.
In addition to potential impact on company culture and innovation, which many leaders have considered, there are other important areas that shouldn’t be overlooked:
Beyond direct business impact, decisions about new work models will affect the communities in which they operate. A stark example of this is how remote work dramatically changed the complexion of central business districts. Streets that had bustled with commuters and office workers emptied and with that an array of service providers — coffee shops, food vendors, florists, messengers and more — were left without business.
With the increasing likelihood of future disruptive events — more global health crises, extreme weather events and geopolitical tensions — comes impact on how and where work is performed. This will have lasting effects for economies, including micro-economies around major cities, and communities.
It is possible that the role companies play in defining the effect will become an area of reputational risk and could also factor into environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations of employees and among investors.
These risks should not dissuade leaders from capitalizing on this extraordinary opportunity to reimagine the future of work. Rather, leaders should factor their new risk profiles into how they change so they unlock the full potential of the opportunity. It will simply take a careful balance and systematic approach to:
Underscoring this transformation is the employee experience (EX). It demands special attention because the ways of work will continue to change how your employees engage with your organization and connect with each other.
Our 2021 Global Employee Experience Survey reflects this point: 92% of organizations plan to enhance their EX over the next three years. In an upcoming article, we will put EX in the spotlight.
In a series of articles — starting with the spotlight on EX — that follows, WTW will set out a clear case about the importance of planning, clarifying the best way for you to capture value, managing downstream risks and ultimately creating an enduring competitive advantage.