Posted: 05 Jul. 2021 5 min. read

The social enterprise in a world disrupted

Jonathan Eighteen and Melissa Bramwell, Directors in our Human Capital practice, deep dive into the key insights from Deloitte's Human Capital Trends European Special Report. From Re-architecting work, to worker wellbeing, reskilling and superteams, our experts discuss all! You can listen to the original podcast here, or read below for the highlights!

What are the key headlines from the Deloitte 2021 Global Human Capital Trends European Special Report?

The unifying thread is the need for leaders to prioritise the abilities and adaptabilities of their workers, by humanising work. And the challenge now becomes how we sustain the momentum we’ve created over the past 15 months, to discover new ways to thrive in the longer term, even as we know there’ll be constant disruption resetting the path forward.

One of the really interesting stats we got from the report was that 54% of execs stated they will be focusing on reimagining work in the next one to three years, versus 28% pre-COVID. This tells us that leaders are shifting their focus away from work optimisation and redesign, towards reimagination, which is fundamentally different to what we’ve seen before.

Reimagining work is much more about achieving new and different work outcomes, with new combinations of technology and people. And linked to this, COVID-19 has taught organisations that teams and technology are even more important to thrive amid constant disruption. Our trend on superteams is supports this, thinking about integrating humans and technology into superteams that use their complementary capabilities to rearchitect work in more human ways. The power of human potential is undoubtedly one of the strongest themes we’ve seen in this year’s report.

Finally, workers’ wellbeing has always been really important, but the pandemic has meant that ensuring employees are physically and mentally healthy has been more central than ever. Companies have generally done well in ensuring that their workers’ wellbeing during the pandemic was being looked after, but I think there’s real scope for more.

The impacts on the future of the workplace

We’ve seen lots of announcements from organisations about the future of work, whether it’s remote-first, hybrid working, or predominantly on site. The new world of work is really about creating the conditions for people to be successful wherever they are, and judging them on their outcomes.

In our trends report, 73% of executives said that they were confident that today’s remote work practices would be sustainable in the future. And when asked about the factors they thought were most important in making it sustainable, Execs chose options intrinsic to the design of work itself. So, allowing for personal choice in determining how work gets done, introducing digital collaboration platforms, and establishing new scheduling meeting norms, all of which directly embed wellbeing into work.

On the topic of hybrid working, it comes with big opportunities and challenges to productivity. Increased employee flexibility often encourages productivity, but logistical and technical difficulties can hinder it.

We’re also seeing that hybrid working can break down barriers for talent, and help people participate in more inclusive ways. But there are risks to organisations that rush into hybrid working models without taking the time to think things through. Where we’re seeing organisations be successful is when they’re piloting alternatives and assessing and iterating them before they implement them more widely across the organisation.

Also, leadership can sometimes be the most vocal in advocating for the return for work, which can be associated with a lack of trust. This can create tensions between what leadership wants and what the employees want. It’s really important is to recognise that the return to the office is not the future of work, and that hybrid working isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

There are significant considerations at play but I think it’s imperative for organisations to look at their longer-term vision, to learn and iterate as they go, to understand what works best for their people and their organisation.

The future of skills: adapting, reskilling, and assuming new roles

It’s really important to recognise that through the pandemic organisations have pivoted quite dramatically, and there’ve been some very remarkable displays of individual and team re-invention. At a very broad level, we’ve seen retail organisations move their staff from working in stores, to operating remotely and still managing to deliver. We’ve seen some organisations on new areas and new products to assist the pandemic support, or to create new value for their organisation. So, we have seen that reskilling can move at pace, and has moved at pace, at an individual level and team level during the pandemic.

It’s not a surprise that when we did survey people, 42% felt that building an organisational culture that celebrates growth, adaptability, and resilience, is absolutely crucial. And then, the second most important factor was building workforce capability through upskilling, reskilling, and mobility. This is absolutely top of mind for executives.

The workforces’ ability to understand what skills are required in their current roles, what skills/roles they aspire to have, and where the organisation wants to put them in the future, is a crucial area for HR to concentrate on and for the business to understand as well. The last 15 months has been an opportunity for organisations to take a very broader view of education, learning, and training, not necessarily in the traditional sense but remotely. Giving people the opportunity to try new things, sometimes in a very dramatically different way than they would have before.

What are the implications on long-term workforce strategies?

With workforce planning, the question here is: how strategic are you in your ability to continuously predict what skills are going to be needed, how much you need, and where these skills are.

Organisations need to be forward-thinking and do scenario planning either at a functional level or at a broader level, to understand where they’re going to need to:

  • Develop skills internally, to build them
  • Buy them from the open market (where they can’t develop the skillsets quick enough internally or if there’s competition for those skills)
  • Partner with other organisations to bring in an external supply of the skills needed

The supply and demand equation is changing quite significantly.

There isn’t an answer out there right now about the ‘right way’ to plan and action your workforces strategies, but organisations are putting a lot more focus on understanding exactly what skills they require, and how they can get them. Also, democratising learning and offering a way of delivering capability uplift, both in the near term and for the longer term, is becoming increasingly more important.

Re-architecting work

2020 was not only a year of extraordinary disruption, but it was also a year of extraordinary resilience. And during incredibly turbulent times, we’ve seen some fantastic results generating the highest increase in productivity since 2010.

Historically, when we’ve look at productivity we’ve been adding technology to the workplace, but haven’t stopped to look at the work itself, which I think raises the question - how can we sustain this productivity? At Deloitte we believe the answer lies in thinking about work differently, and starting with a focus on the humans who do the work. The pandemic has highlighted, for us, that the workforce is more than just an enabler to what organisations want to achieve. It’s a real source of value and meaning.

We talk about ‘Re-architecting’ work as putting work at the centre, and shifting it from a traditional process to a more humanised flow. Work is no longer static and process-driven, but it’s fluid and it’s constantly evolving, and it requires us to rethink what we should be doing and how we should be doing it.

It begins with reframing the work conversation around outcomes, to increase productivity and unleash potential across the organisation. And it drives a future focus towards achieving work aspirations and outcomes that create lasting value for individuals, the organisation, and for wider society at large.

By centring on work as a flow, aligned with how humans think, analyse, create, and engage, we can really illuminate the human and technological capabilities required to achieve new outcomes and unleash new possibilities. Ultimately, with the end result of making work better for humans, and humans better at work.

What is the role of HR in all of this?

HR was really thrust to the forefront, and extended its influence and remit beyond its typical role, to really start to orchestrate work across the entire organisation. HR and human capital issues are truly business issues, and that puts the CHRO right at the centre of really high-profile decisions that are directly impacting the organisation.

And what this means is that the CHRO is not just responsible for driving the transformation of the HR organisation, it’s also being asked to take the lead on organisation-wide issues about how work gets done. This has brought the CHRO and the CIO closer than ever, with the CHRO driving the re-architecture of work, and the CIO leading on the acceleration of digital.

In our trend survey this year, we found that one in four HR executives are very confident in their ability to navigate the changes required in the next three to five years, and half of them are confident. However, confidence among business executives was lower, with only 11% being very confident.

This highlights the importance of HR functions in ensuring that they understand and meet the needs of the business, whilst also taking ownership of the work transformation agenda, and really shaping the future of work in their organisation. To effectively rearchitect a human vision of the future of work, HR will really need to partner closely with business leaders and with workers and treat the re-architecture of work as an ongoing capability that needs to be embedded across the operations.

The role reskilling/learning functions

If you’re going to get into the work re-architecture conversation, it becomes much more about the whole talent process, the build-buy-bot process that you have moving across the overall organisation, to develop the workforce or to rearchitect the workforce. And then, of course, how you enable the workforce as well, though performance management, ensuring that wellbeing is throughout this process, so that workers can feel and perform at their best.

What’s particularly interesting is, if you look across our human capital trends report, everything that we talk about is centred around work, and humanisation of that. Be that designing work for wellbeing, creating reskilling opportunities, how superteams and teams work, governing workforce strategies and what the role of HR is in the future.

For a deep dive into the trends discussed, take a look at our Global Human Capital Trends 2021 European special report.

Sign up for the latest updates

Key contacts

Jonathan Eighteen

Jonathan Eighteen

Director, EMEA Learning and Talent Advisory Lead

Jonathan is a director in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting in the UK. He leads the Learning Advisory practice in Europe, and brings more than 20 years of either leading, or consulting with, Corporate Learning & Leadership Development Departments. During his international career, Jonathan has lived and worked in the UK, US & Asia-Pacific with client experience in the Financial Services, Oil & Gas, Pharmaceutical, Telecoms & Media and Consumer Business industries. He has also held senior HR positions in both the Banking & Pharma industries. Jonathan contributes extensively to Deloitte’s eminence on Learning and Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends. Jonathan has significant experience in managing Learning & Development operations for large-scale organisations, joining from a Global Bank where he was Director of Learning and Leadership Development. He has a track record of helping organisations optimize their L&D operations, ensuring L&D & Talent strategies are aligned, efficient and appropriate to business needs. He leads large scale Learning Transformations for FTSE50 clients and has worked with some of the world’s leading brands to make them market-leading learning organisations.

Melissa Bramwell

Melissa Bramwell


Melissa is a Director in our Human capital practice, who leads UK Deloitte Future of HR proposition. She has extensive experience working across multiple large scale global transformation programmes helping clients shape, deliver and communicate complex transformational outcomes. Melissa has delivered projects across sectors, with a particular focus on Technology, Media and Telecommunications industries. Previously she has been an HR professional in industry and has a background in Organisational Psychology. She co-authored 2021 Deloitte European Human Capital report.