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Global Human Capital Trends 2021

European special report

COVID-19 has shown that organisations and their people can respond to the pressure of a crisis, meeting challenges from what seemed impossible and achieving tremendous positive change. But will the pandemic go down in history as a disruptor or will it prove to be a fast-forwarding ‘time machine’ to a new accelerated future of work? A challenge for many organisations now is to discover new ways to thrive in an environment of perpetual change, while staying true to their purpose.

Diving deeper

In this year’s special report, we take a European view of the trends explored in 2021 Global Human Capital Trends. As organisations emerge slowly from COVID-19 and shift from surviving to thriving, it will be essential to move away from having adjacent and discrete programmes and incentives to employing a more dynamic approach to managing human capital. In this report, we ‘deep dive’ into five human capital trends to explore how organisations can empower their workforce and capitalise on unique human strengths, even as disruption is continually resetting the path forward.

Designing work for wellbeing: Building a sustainable future where workers can feel and perform at their best

Responses by business to COVID-19 have blurred even further the lines between work and life, and this has brought concerns for wellbeing into greater focus. By integrating wellbeing into the design of work, organisations can build a more sustainable future where individuals feel supported and can perform at their best.

When we asked executives what factors they see as the most important in making remote work sustainable, they overwhelmingly prioritised options intrinsic to the design of work itself, including allowing for personal choice in determining how work gets done, introducing digital collaboration platforms, and establishing new scheduling and meeting norms – all of which embed wellbeing directly into work. Encouragingly, executives also prioritised investing in team leader training – a critical requirement for creating a supportive, healthy working environment, whether their teams are working onsite, remotely or a combination of the two.

Beyond reskilling: Unleashing workforce potential

During the disruption caused by COVID-19, business leaders called upon their workers to expand their roles, and do whatever needed to be done – and workers rose to the challenge, identifying what was most essential and applying their capabilities and using their own initiative to handle tasks. In this year’s Global Human Capital Trends survey, European executives identified “the ability of their people to adapt, reskill and assume new roles” as the most important factor in navigating future disruptions. Instead of taking a prescriptive approach to putting people into set roles, organisations should consider empowering them to explore the areas of work they are passionate about and equipping them to do so.

Superteams: Where work happens

The power of teams has been a lifeline for organisations during the crisis. The next frontier is the creation of ‘superteams’ – groups of people and intelligent machines working together to solve problems and create value, while giving employees an opportunity to enhance their impact in the organisation. To build on human strengths and discover the untapped potential of technology, organisations are shifting their focus away from work optimisation to work reimagination, to achieve better outcomes. The 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey showed that 54% of European senior executives intend to focus on reimagining work in their organisation in the next one to three years, compared to just 28% before COVID-19 struck. For organisations to reimagine work successfully, they must create an environment in which superteams can flourish.

Governing workforce strategies: Setting new directions for work and the workforce

The current crisis in health and the economy has put severe pressure on the need for organisations to improve the understanding of their workforce. This is key to a more agile and resilient future in which organisations can pivot quickly to allow for alternative working arrangements while ensuring employee wellbeing and safety. Results from the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey show that COVID-19 has prompted many European organisations to shift their approach towards preparing from planning for likely and incremental events to anticipating unlikely, high impact events and considering multiple possible scenarios.

A memo to HR: Accelerating the shift to re-architecting work

Another consequence of COVID-19 is that the HR function has been pushed to the forefront of efforts to survive the crisis – and it has gained greater credibility and status as a result. The growing importance of the human element at work has opened a window of opportunity for HR to expand their remit and embrace the future of work agenda. It is now time for HR to build on their stronger position to re-architect work throughout the enterprise through new ways of thinking about human potential, superteams, wellbeing and workforce governance.

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