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Podcast Length Icon 41:11 11 Oct 2021

The employer-employee relationship disrupted

In this episode, our guest is Steve Hatfield, who is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting and serves as the Global Leader for the Future of Work for Deloitte. He has over 20 years of experience advising global organizations on issues of strategy, innovation, organization, people, culture, and change. We discuss the impact of the pandemic on the world of work and specifically focus on the recent report by Deloitte entitled “The worker-employer relationship disrupted”, which you can download from here.

Below is the excerpt from the conversation, edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the entire conversation either above using the player, or via all the other podcasting tools, with the links on the side panel on the right.

Agnes: We have seen that the pandemic has had a seismic impact on the labor market, and on the world of work and the different aspects of it. In this conversation we are going to zoom in on one of the aspects, namely a report that was recently published by Deloitte, and it's called the worker-employer relationship disrupted. This report starts with a very challenging and intriguing question: if we are not family, who are we? Can I just ask you Steve to tell the listeners a little bit more how this became a flagship question in the report?

Steve: I would say that the discussion around the role of work in people's lives was actually beginning to take an interesting shape even pre-pandemic and the dialogue around purpose at work or the dialogue around the degree to which the organization is stepping into things that extend past the normal boundaries of the workplace. We're part and parcel of the conversation about what is the nature of the relationship between the employer and employee in the workplace. Are we a team, are we something more than that, are we a community, are we colleagues, so what is the nature of that relationship. And then the pandemic struck and it's part of why we actually started this year when we were thinking about the next phase of trends, in the form of a special report that explored specifically the nature of the employee-employer relationship and what's driving some of that and you saw through the pandemic the way certain organizations stepped up to the care of their workforce in a very different way, and how others may not have stepped up.

And you saw the shift in what people want, the worker sentiment around what's possible in terms of work life integration. What's possible in terms of hybrid or virtual work? What's possible in terms of confidence that the workers of today now have, given the kinds of things they did in the pandemic and their ability to now potentially move on to other and more exciting opportunities. And so you have this newfound trend called the great resignation. There is this really interesting question then about well given these trends given the new confidence of the workforce of today, given the nature of how organizations may or may not have stepped up into the pandemic, given the focus that we're now seeing on things like health and well-being, belonging and connection, as well as inclusion. So what then is the nature of the relationship, and so are we a family or are we not and that's part of what we are sort of exploring if you will through these various trends.

Agnes: Well thank you very much for giving such a great overview and explaining this and was it also the same thought process at Deloitte, that is similar to what some other academics are also looking at, namely how the pandemic and perhaps even other crises going on in the world, may fundamentally change work and the workplace or employment and that we need to maybe really shed some of the post-industrial heritage or baggage, in order to be able to continue robust and and resilient, but also to match all of these different expectations and the different contexts?

Steve: I guess that's a great question. I absolutely think so. We're seeing that in strong results through the trends-report and the various scenarios that we're exploring. Three out of four scenarios speak to the fact that the post-industrial kind of labor market dynamic is just dramatically different. You know, I had the pleasure of actually listening to Thomas Friedman speak recently, and he actually has said that the fourth industrial revolution, which the world economic forum declared that we are now in as of2016, isn't really correct. It's a bit of a misnomer because it provides a view that we're on some sort of progression from the second industrial revolution to the third industrial revolution to the fourth from steam in the mass production line to computerization to the cyber and the physical worlds coming together.

His view is that we've actually reached a promethean moment, sort of the equivalent of finding fire and what that does to transform society in what we've now experienced through the pandemic and that there's a dramatic change. It's now happening in terms of how we need to think about the labor market, how we need to think about work, how we need to think about the workforce itself and how we need to think about, as we pointed out, what is the nature of the relationship between the organization and its and its workforce. And so these dynamics I think are part of what those other academics are seeing when they speak to things like the decommodification of the labor force or the democratization of the employer base.

Agnes: Thank you so much and just coming to the last question which is more or less always the same here on the WorkLife podcast. If I could ask you Steve, to just select one advice that I ask you to give to senior leaders listening to this conversation on what they need to be doing now to make sure that they not only survive but thrive?

Steve: So I would urge leaders to recognize that workers are now in a power position to shift traditional workplace standards from what they've been and it's actually become a pivotal moment for organizations and shaping the future focused on what is the nature of that employer and employee relationship. Many organizations have not stepped back and thought sufficiently about this in a deliberate way, which is why we had this whole dialogue earlier around are we a family or not, what's the evolution here. And I would urge organizations to step back and think very carefully about what is the nature of that relationship and in doing so, then chart the course for how you address many of the things that we've been talking about, like purpose and meaning, trust, flexibility and agency as well as output productivity. You want to have something that will make you successful going forward and then chart the course around it.