Posted: 06 May 2021 5 min. read

2021 Global Human Capital Trends

Superteams: Where work happens

The “so what” in 30 seconds

John Hagel, from Deloitte’s Centre for the Edge, has a simple concept about teams that bears paying attention to. He says that if you build truly cross-functional and diverse teams, lift them out of transactional work, and give them a problem to solve, they will learn faster from each other and the problem itself than any learning program could hope to match. Teams are indeed powerful things.

The opportunity here is to be intentional about the way we build teams and the work we set them to focus on. With that done, the next frontier is to think about how human and machine can collaborate in that team context. Remember what Hagel said about lifting teams out of the transactional?

Imagine stripping out the dull, expensive work and reimagining a team’s key role as one focused on customers or citizens. Then work backward and ask yourself, what technologies do we need to make this new way of working possible? The result: work re-architected. We call this a superteam, and it’s a mindset shift worth reflection.

A deeper dive

The rise of teams and the increase of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace—those are just two of the trends identified in our 2020 Human Capital Trends report that have materialized over the previous decade. Over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations have doubled down on teams and teaming as a survival strategy. The acceleration of this shift has enabled workplace pivots, adaptability, and speed amid turbulent and demanding conditions. Technology and AI have also gained more recognition as critical enablers within the workplace.

Forward-looking leaders have used this opportunity to construct “superteams”—the result of strategically pairing people with technology in more natural ways. By amplifying the human contributions, superteams can play an integral part in an organization’s ability to grow and thrive.   

Despite their potential, superteams are still not considered a widespread organizational strategy. This may be because many organizations still tend to view technology as a tool and enabler, rather than as a team member and collaborator.

This viewpoint is changing, as executives begin to shift their focus away from work optimization and toward reimagination. The pandemic’s scale and severity has forced business leaders to reevaluate what work is essential for delivering value to their customers, shareholders, and stakeholders during the prolonged period of heightened uncertainty. Technology can empower teams, make work better for people, and make people better at work.

To create an environment where superteams flourish, executives need to make the following shifts: 

  1. Stop focusing on improving existing processes and outputs. Start rebuilding work to put reimagination into action.
  2. Stop using technologies only as an enabler for existing work. Start recognizing the transformative potential that technology can have in  elevating work and enabling people to perform at their best.
  3. Stop silos and work divisions between the people who understand the value of superteams. Start making the creation of superteams a cross-organizational imperative, using the best thinking from human resources, IT, and the rest of business.

Superteams are no longer a luxury add-on, they’re a vital component for organizations hoping to remain relevant post-pandemic. 

What does this mean for organizations?

Organizations that are able to use the power of superteams have the opportunity to reinvent themselves, rebuilding work to be more human. Technology can elevate a team’s ability to learn, create, and perform in new ways.

What is the impact of this change?

Organizations that take advantage of superteams, strategically pairing people with technology in more human ways, are better positioned to:

  • Transition from work optimization to work reimagination.
  • Support employees by allowing them to build their human capabilities and evolve the skills that are critical to a future-ready workforce. 
  • Use the diversity bonus—which comes from forming teams composed of different kinds of thinkers—and reframe human and machine intelligence as a both/and partnership.

New possibilities in the new normal

COVID-19 proved that people and technology isn’t an either/or, it’s a both/and partnership. In the Superteams: Where work happens section of our Human Capital Trends report, we present some examples of organizations that are using technology to augment and supplement work. 

By partnering people with technology based on their complementary capabilities, organizations will be able evolve at unprecedented speed and scale. This new model will be essential in a business landscape of change and disruption.

For more information, read the 2021 Global Human Capital Trends report.


Key contacts

Aaron Groulx

Aaron Groulx

Partner, Human Capital

Aaron is a partner and national Human Resources (HR) transformation advisory leader at Deloitte. He has worked across both Canadian and global industries, helping organizations implement better HR transformation strategy, operations, and technology. Aaron’s focus is helping HR functions expand their services to significantly enhance the role HR plays in business success. He has helped clients adopt a uniquely human approach to extend the influence of their HR teams to alleviate the increasing pressures imposed on modern businesses.

Stephen Harrington

Stephen Harrington

Partner, Human Capital

Stephen is Deloitte’s National Lead – Workforce Strategy, and has been a writer and speaker on the future of work since 2011. With 20 years’ experience in Consulting, Stephen leads transformations in workforce strategy that enable our client’s people to feel personal purpose and impact, as the business drives improved results. Stephen is co-author of the Intelligence Revolution, a recent paper covering implication of the future of work in Canada. He has lead multiple projects in the last few years helping clients build new frameworks and capabilities to stand up future-ready workforces.