Posted: 06 Oct. 2022 12 min. read

Cultivating career agility in the new world of work

Managing through the Great Reshuffle as power shifts to employees

Authored by Manu Rawat, Sarah Pritchett, Jeff Bean, and Leonard Dubovoy

The fact that there are over 500 million Google search results for the phrase the “Great Resignation” reflects an ever-growing understanding that the world of work has fundamentally changed.  Individuals are empowered to explore opportunities that align with their career aspirations, purpose, and values by pivoting to completely different careers, upskilling in areas they are passionate about, or re-evaluating employers based on a the focus on physical and emotional well-being. As a result, accessing, developing, and engaging workers has become increasingly complex and challenging for organizations.

With this challenge comes the “Great Rethink” or the "Great Reshuffle” and organizations are rapidly shifting the lens on end-to-end worker experience focusing on growth, development, and evolving the culture to meet the expectations of the worker.

Forces Disrupting the World of Work

There are three major factors at work and the confluence of them contributes to three out of every four voluntary departures from organization.

Growth Opportunities. The first is the real, or perceived, lack of opportunity to develop or advance one’s career,1 either through reskilling (allowing an individual to pivot their career) or upskilling (letting individuals explore skills for the desired role and advance in their career). This is a significant investment for individuals and organizations; the loss for an organization to replace an employee is between 1.5 to 2X the employee’s annual salary,2 whereas individuals lose time, perhaps the most valuable asset of all, sometimes taking between 5-6 months to find the right role.3

Employee experience matters. It’s been known for some time that one’s immediate supervisor, or manager, has a disproportionate impact on employee experience.4 Though someone may work for an organization with leading or innovative practices, if their direct supervisor does not advance the intended culture, practices, and procedures that have been put in place, e.g., not letting go of talent for an internal opportunity they are interested in, those employees will be disengaged and demotivated. Leaders and managers can make or break employee experience. With organizations starting to heavily focus on empowering employees to seek their desired career path within the organization, the leaders and managers become a crucial linchpin to support employees to achieve their career aspirations.

Disruptive technologies are changing the game. Though gaps persist, there has been a tipping point in terms of access, adoption, and speed of the evolving underlying technology infrastructure in the last ~5 years, which has resulted in a rapid democratization of careers.  Everything from wide-spread access to broadband internet, to the adoption of digital workplace applications has set the stage for enhanced career mobility for the growing knowledge-based worker segment,5 which comprises about 60% of the workforce.6 Workers can easily find new opportunities internally (if the organization has a robust internal Talent Marketplace) or, externally, to suit their interests and skills. It’s also worth noting the convergence of high-speed internet access and ubiquitous personal devices contributes to and can take advantage of the increased flow of data. This now begins to set the stage for the rise of artificial intelligence (AI)-based applications to manage the volume, velocity, and variety of data that resides in the cloud.7 These applications and the massive data they ingest are emerging to transition from automation to augmentation and add value as a means for organizations to build robust systems to attract, develop, and keep talent.8

Combine these factors with a global pandemic, after which 85% of workers said their work life was getting worse, and 56% indicating their job demands had increased9… and you have the “Great Resignation.”

So, what do we do? How do we start?

Establishing a Skills-Based Career Agility Strategy

Step 1: Reconfigure work

At the most basic level, organizations need people to do tasks. Those tasks, when combined, become a job and require some sort of combination of training, education, and practice to perform well and achieve organizational outcomes. However, the mismatch between what happens in practice in regard to the roles and responsibilities of an individual versus what is written in a job description is often so vast that the notion of “jobs” is often being questioned. Consequently, organizations are embarking on massive time intensive transformation efforts to analyze the tasks and rewrite the jobs, yet the jobs are changing and evolving. However, maybe there is a different approach they should be thinking about.

By reimagining and reconfiguring work to be purposeful and meaningful, organizations can rethink the way they approach jobs. The two approaches to reconfiguring work, as per Deloitte’s research in “Beyond the job” 10, are:

  • Fractionalization: deconstructing the work into its component parts i.e., tasks or projects and then using new advances in technology to rapidly match the “pieces” of work to the workforce.
  • Broad outcomes: organizing work by creating broad commitments to problems to be solved, outcomes to be achieved, or new sources of value to be created.

In our research, we propose unbundling work from the job and dividing it into component pieces to unleash people’s ability to dynamically flow to the work by taking on discrete short-term challenges, opportunities, tasks, projects, or assignments that span job titles and departments. Alternatively, by broadening work to focus on the broad outcomes to be achieved or problems to be solved, employees get the opportunity to take on bigger, more integrated roles and responsibilities that often cross functional boundaries and enable them to develop new skills and gain experience. Organizations can begin experimenting with these approaches or a hybrid of these approaches to be better prepared for the ever evolving and dynamic future.

Step 2: Build a Skills Foundation

In order to adapt and attract talent, it’s important to understand what skills are and what they mean for organizations and individuals.11 As individuals explore opportunities that align with their career aspirations, purpose, and values, they have intrinsic motivation to gain proficiency in a set of skills and eventually master them. This is often (but not always) combined with an extrinsic motivation to increase one’s earnings. This journey throughout one’s lifespan in which there is the ever-present cycle of desire, opportunity, effort, and achievement is essentially their “career.”

Understanding the connections between the skills your workforce has and needs, on an individual level and by role, is the key to successfully managing the forces that disrupt the world of work. Skills are the building blocks or the new language for a system of human performance and agility for the organization. Embedding skills in talent programs and processes enables organizations to create an ecosystem that creates value for all parties involved. Workers gain transparency and clarity of what is needed in the role or work assigned to them, and organizations gain the visibility of gaps in the skills needed to achieve the strategic objectives. Using skills as a foundation, organizations can provide access to various types of opportunities from full time roles to projects or gigs that can help the workforce with upskilling, reskilling, gaining diverse experiences, and advancing their interests, passion, and ambition.

Step 3: Strengthen the Career Infrastructure

With a strong foundation in place, the focus should then shift to designing or strengthening the key infrastructure elements for careers. This includes programs, processes, policies, and access to career advancement and development opportunities enabled by technology with a strong commitment from the leaders. Without integration with learning, development, performance, recruiting, and compensation teams, a career agility strategy would not provide the end-to-end experience that is key to individuals in seeing a long-term career path in the organization.

In summary, a compelling career agility strategy is a strategic competitive advantage. This could not be more relevant than at the time of the “Great Reshuffle”. Consider the following outcomes that organizations are missing out on by not embarking on this important journey:

  • Enhanced Transparency of Career Options: Increased visibility of possible career pathways and access to diverse opportunities that build experience and exposure for aspirational roles.
  • Transparency of Talent Readiness: Understanding of skills-based areas of strengths and gaps in the existing workforce and pipeline to plan future workforce mix and programs to upskill or reskill them.
  • Accelerated Development: Targeted efforts of skills in the flow of work through personalized opportunities and experiences aligned to the business needs and individual aspirations.

With the power dynamic shifting so much from employers to employees, there has never been a more important time to invest in a renewed strategy to attract, retain and engage talent. Organizations that have built a successful career agility strategy are better prepared to unleash the agility and resiliency that differentiates them while creating value for all.



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2Mcfeely, S, & Wigert, B. (March, 2019). “This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion.”,to%20%242.6%20million%20per%20year
3US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). “Table A-12. Unemployed persons by duration of unemployment.” Economic News Release.
4Gallup. (2022). “Designing the Employee Experience to Improve Workplace Culture and Drive Performance”.,the%20variance%20in%20team%20engagement
5Tomer, A., et al. (2020, Feb 27). Digital prosperity: How broadband can deliver health and equity to all 
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6US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020). “11b. Employed persons by detailed occupation and age.” Labor Force
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7Stewart, D. et al. (December 2020). “The Cloud Migration Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Clouds”. Deloitte Insights.
8Rabinowitz, H. (March 2022). “AI flips the script on talent retention”. Workflow.
9Moss, J. (February, 2021). “Beyond burned out”. Harvard Business Review.
10Cantrell, S. (October 2021). “Beyond the job”. Deloitte Insights.
11Cantrell, S. et al., (October 2021). “Skills: The new workforce operating system”. Deloitte Capital H Blog.

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