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Leading Off
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It's happening. As global efforts pave the way for the transition toward normalcy, organizations are starting to think about the postpandemic future. What will the office look like for those who return to one and for those who don't? Clearly, new skills and capabilities are in order, but how should leaders think about defining and delivering them? What will reintegration look like? Satisfaction? Dare we ask about happiness? This week we've gathered experts to peer into a future that may be very different from the prepandemic past and will ask much of those tasked to lead it.
Very big changes are afoot
The pandemic accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, and automation, with up to 25 percent more workers than previously estimated potentially needing to switch occupations. Here, the McKinsey Global Institute assesses the lasting impact of the pandemic on labor demand, the mix of occupations, and the workforce skills required in eight countries with diverse economic and labor market models: China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Together, these countries account for almost half the global population and 62 percent of GDP.
The percentage of the American workforce that will be remote this year, according to one survey, writes John Seabrook in “Has the pandemic transformed the office forever?” in the New Yorker. For several decades revolutions in design and technology have been changing the way offices are used. Now the pandemic, which has led millions of workers to move, many of them out of cities, has raised an existential question: What is an office for? For those leaders contemplating reentry to office settings, no less important are the practical questions of how to reinstall workers safely to work in proximity to one another.
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This week we offer not one, not two, but a veritable cornucopia of expert insights in a new edition of The Next Normal: “The future of capability building.” One thing the pandemic has made clear is that corporate resilience and adaptability begin with strong capabilities. Here, McKinsey experts explore the contours of capability building five to ten years out, and leading executives share firsthand insights: Markle Foundation's chief operating officer on tapping talent pools; U.S. Bank's vice chairman for consumer and business banking on the rewards of continuous learning; and Volvo Cars' leader for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa on core competencies for the future.
“Much research shows that being and feeling powerful provokes people to focus more on their own needs and wants and to become oblivious to others' needs and feelings.”
So says Bob Sutton, Stanford University professor of management science and engineering. When business as usual makes its return, will leaders retain the empathy and genuine care toward employees that was so prevalent during the pandemic's early days? This edition of McKinsey's Five Fifty interactive feature, “Better bosses,” highlights the absolutely critical link between bosses and subordinates in defining individual and collective well-being. It's a relationship that will be sorely tested in the quest for a return to normalcy in the business setting and beyond.
“Farewell sour annoy. For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.”
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King Edward had good reason for blaring the trumpets by the end of Will Shakespeare's Henry VI trilogy. But even with the prospect of vaccinations and herd immunity taking form, it remains difficult to feel as sanguine about a rapid restoration of prepandemic optimism. The pandemic's human and economic toll has fallen heavily on diverse groups that are crying out for support to help them with work and with balancing work and home life. Companies have a key role to play in creating a sustainable new normal. Yet happiness levels in the United States declined even during the dozen years prior to the pandemic's arrival. The good news: scientists are studying why and whether levels of happiness can be increased and sustained. Some believe the brain can be trained and that exercises including short meditation practices will become routine, like running and weight lifting, making emotional well-being as important as physical well-being in the coming years. Let's hope.
Lead considerably.
— Edited by Bill Javetski, an executive editor in McKinsey's New Jersey office
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