The Future of Work

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The ethical challenges and opportunities for Boards facing the Future of Work- balancing stakeholders’ perspectives and mega trends.

To say the last year has changed the way we work would be an understatement. The pandemic has forced us and our organisations to work and manage remotely and differently. As a growing number of employees return to the physical office, the Ethical Leadership Group brought us together to explore the issues Boards and organisations face as they work with Executive teams to reset and reorganise their working life for the future.

Throughout the 90-minute session, host and moderator, Oonagh Harpur posed insightful questions to a diverse and knowledgeable panel. She asked, ‘Who are the stakeholders around the future of work?’ ‘How do we navigate around this next period with all the different needs?’ and ‘What are the unintended consequences of how we recover, particularly in terms of digital transformation?

Sarah Morris, Group Chief People Officer at Compass Group plc, employs a majority of frontline workers. They ensure that people and culture remain at the core of this food service business, using effective communication, certainty and choice to enable them to increase staff flexibility and leverage scale. As a barrier-less employer they reinforce opportunities for lifetime employment and use food as the reason to come together and nourish bodies and minds.

Jackie Cupper, board-level advisor on workplace management and performance highlighted that employees and businesses often have different requirements and that businesses need to continue to ask themselves, ‘how easy is it to work here and how well are we providing for you to work well?’ She advised, ‘Look at the data, and when asking employees what they need and want, truly listen to what they are saying and be prepared to change.’

Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation at Cranfield School of Management, utilises qualitative diary studies to explore employee experiences of remote working during the pandemic and argues that it is important to review the ‘employer footprint’ in terms of how their employment practices have an influence of wider communities. Organisations need to evaluate what they have learned during this period, and reconsider what they offer and how they behave, impact and influence, to improve the employees’ experiences at work. She concluded, ‘If we only use questionnaires, we only get answers to questions we ask, and the real issues for a sound evidence base, may not be surfaced.’

Tanuja Randery, MD AWS EMEA and former partner at McKinsey shared results on productivity, anxiety and symptoms of burnout that emerged in the last year. She urged management to re-evaluate what tasks require people to come together and to build the social value of the workplace. Rebalance time together to connect, brainstorm, collaborate, mentor and prepare intellectually. Communicate vision and policy and focus on over-indexing on people culturally: men vs women, new vs tenured, support staff vs partners, local businesses vs suppliers.

Starting with energy and ending with a gift, the panellists provided a useful summary:

  • Really listen to your people and be prepared to make a change.
  • Look at what people are doing, the output not input.
  • Know the data, not hearsay.
  • Whatever we’ve done so far, we have not truly appreciated how hard it was to work during the pandemic.
  • Now is the time to over-index on people and inclusiveness.

Acknowledgements to Oonagh Harpur, Sawsan Khuri, the four panellists and Lara Lambert for the success of this event.

Kathryn Pretzel Shiels

Resources mentioned during the session:

Members - Click here to view a recording of the event.

L-R: Oonagh Harpur, Tanuja Randery, Clare Kelliher, Jackie Cupper and Sarah Morris
L-R: Oonagh Harpur, Tanuja Randery, Clare Kelliher, Jackie Cupper and Sarah Morris

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