The future of work: Seizing the opportunities of the new normal

The COVID-19 crisis forced organizations around the world to reevaluate many aspects of their work, workforce, and workplace, while also presenting new risks and opportunities. For instance, new business start-ups nearly doubled in the United States compared to pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, larger organizations experienced an “unfreezing” moment in which the status quo of how things were done was disrupted.

In turn, this created conditions ripe for large-scale change by investing financial and human capital in new or reimagined initiatives that improve employee experience, increase productivity, and reduce voluntary attrition to competitors. These initiatives fall within three broad areas of opportunity across work, workforce, and workplace:

  1. Find deeper meaning in your work. Employee expectations arising from the pandemic show that organizations should rethink work to be done. Employees from the C-suite to the frontline are craving deeper meaning in their work. Nearly two-thirds of surveyed U.S.-based employees said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. Nearly half said that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic.

    Organizations should evaluate the link between their purpose and how that manifests on a day-to-day basis. Further clarity around why the organization exists should serve as a north star to guide or reinforce critical business decisions, like the allocation of capital, employee experience, and workforce choices (e.g., DE&I initiatives, hiring, reskilling/upskilling programs). Organizations that establish a clear link between what they do and why they exist are likely to gain a competitive advantage in both employee and customer retention.

  2. Put your workforce first. In the current labor market, organizations are finding human capital to be scarcer than financial capital. The talent marketplace has not only recovered but is now intensely hot as organizations compete for top talent.

    Employees now expect much more from their employers and will engage, or disengage, depending on how their needs are met. They want a better employee experience and they want to do meaningful work that resonates with their values.

    For example, in a recent survey, we found that organizations can achieve a 55 percent improvement in employee engagement by addressing their need for work recognition through nonfinancial means. We also saw a 49 percent improvement in employee engagement by aligning organizational values with individual purpose.

    Organizations should rethink the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences (KSAEs) required for jobs. They should consider moving away from hiring based on educational credentials, and instead embrace a skills-based hiring approach that allows the expansion and diversification of their talent pool without compromising on talent quality.

  3. Make the workplace a vehicle for your people and values. After reimagining the work to be done and putting people first, organizations should close the loop by supporting their employees’ needs. A clear vision for the working model—whether hybrid, in-person, or remote—is essential, but employers should also recognize that clarity alone isn’t enough. After a live experiment in remote work, employees are craving more flexibility, and many will require a convincing explanation to return to in-person work.

    Organizations that address these questions open the door to better employee experience, increased loyalty, and access to larger talent pools. The new workplace, whatever form it takes, can bring out the best in employees by providing them with what is best for them. In turn, this pays dividends with increased productivity and customer satisfaction.

The pandemic disrupted life, but it also created an inflection point for organizations to redefine what they want to be and where they want to go. Organizations must seize this moment to transform ambiguity into opportunity across their work, workforce, and workplace. To succeed in the future of work, the time for change is now.


This blog post is part of a series on the future of work post-pandemic, exploring three symbiotic elements of work, the workforce, and the workplace.

Learn more about our People & Organizational Performance Practice