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Three Key Trends in the New World of Work

Things are changing fast in the turbulent ’20s

Published: Thursday, March 2, 2023 - 12:03

The world of work connects employers, workers, governments, and regulators, but it has fundamentally changed since 2019. The upheaval caused by the pandemic, energy crisis, war, and the green transition have exposed and exacerbated fractures in the workplace, most often related to job status and opportunities for self-fulfillment. There’s disparity between what workers want and what employers want, and the tremors of ongoing change are not easing.

So where does 2023 find employers and their staff? In poor shape, according to figures from Adecco’s “Global Workforce of the Future 2022” report, which revealed that 27 percent of workers were planning to quit within a year, and 48  percent expected to be compelled to seek better paid work. Most worrying, although 44 percent of staff would stay only if their role progressed with training, 23 percent of all workers have never had a career progression discussion.

As the gap between employers and workers widens, it can be hard to see where to go now. But International Standards could help. By providing the foundation and guidance needed for sustainable, equitable, and inclusive workplace management, they can establish common ground for employers and workers. But as we navigate the turbulent ’20s, what evolving standards must we enshrine for everybody’s benefit?

Here are three points worth everyone’s attention in 2023.

1. Engagement is the new priority

“Post-Covid, people are aware of better choices—so businesses need to examine different types of employment,” says Professor Sandy Miles, director of standards development at HRCI for ISO’s technical committee on human resource management (ISO/TC 260).

These better choices are often guided by salary considerations, and so pay has long been the go-to tool to attract talent. However, it’s a blunt instrument, and talent these days requires a more personalized touch.

Miles says, “Diversity and inclusion will be vital factors in attracting and retaining employees. Companies are becoming ever more global and so must learn to accommodate staff with varying cultural issues, working in all kinds of locations, from rented offices to kitchen tables, often caring for elderly parents or children and with variable access to Wi-Fi.”

Although it might attract talent in the short-term, salary isn’t the key to workplace loyalty. Employers must strive for staff engagement. According to the Adecco study, employee happiness, stability, good work-life balance, colleagues, and flexibility are more important than pay. In fact, salary drops down to the sixth-most important factor when deciding to stay with a company if the worker feels engaged.

For example, the broader mission of an employer is under unprecedented scrutiny as Gen Z talent invariably chooses a career with an organization sympathetic to its own values—sustainability, net-zero action, gender parity, and diversity.

To assist in the HR management process, ISO is beginning work on a new management system standard (ISO 30201) that organizations can use to efficiently and effectively attract, develop, and deploy human capital. It will also include better treatment of workers, improved results for the organization, and support broader societal goals.

2. Digital needs the human touch

As they increasingly exist in a virtual world with many of their processes digital, companies will, conversely, come to highly value “soft skills.” Without a tangible location, the virtual workplace needs managers with empathy and creativity to keep their teams bonded. With less opportunity to invite a colleague for a coffee or share lunch together, will workers feel as though they belong to the organization they work for or fully understand its goals?

A disconnect between the mission statement and the worker’s experience can lead to distrust and a lack of productivity. Strong human skills can go a long way in bridging that gap when it appears. Mentoring will be a key element of building cohesion, especially when guiding staff through the upskilling required for the green transition as well as accelerating digitalization of the work world.

Reassuring staff of their value in a digital landscape should also be a priority. Jim Lewis, chair of ISO/TC 260, explains that “working from home has proven to be more engaging and gratifying for most workers, with employees appreciating the opportunity to be judged on the quality and quantity of their work rather than just the hours of face time put in at the office.”

But “soft skills” are only one side of the coin. As offices, processes, and definitions of productivity continue to morph, companies will have to rely on human-capital reporting that can keep track.

3. No such thing as standard

The world of work will continue to evolve according to technology innovation and societal issues. Employers and workers alike must find a way to tailor the directions and procedures they can rely on during turbulent times. One-size-fits-all policies and blunt instruments simply won’t cut it anymore—it’s time for tailored solutions.

International Standards give employers a worldwide view of key trends, enabling them to put in place plans to equip themselves for what’s to come. They help organizations from all countries map the needed skills to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bridging the gap between workers and companies is a pivotal part of this.

“HR can’t function in a silo,” says Miles. “An organization’s strategy and values should be connected to talent recruitment; talent management such as remuneration, learning, and development; and performance management of its employees, while providing value to the organization and society as a whole. All of the strategies must work together.”

For example, ISO 30414 underlines the value of human capital, making the staff contribution clear and transparent with useful metrics (58 in total) to guide employers of all sizes. The standard covers compliance and ethics, diversity, leadership, culture, health, safety, and well-being as well as other vital workforce metrics. ISO 23326 provides guidance on employee engagement to create a mutually beneficial environment for all, connected with purpose and value.

As we plan a global economy around the SDGs, teamwork is crucial for navigating an uncertain future of rapid changes. International Standards steady the journey.

First published Feb. 9, 2023, in ISO News.


About The Author

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The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 162 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a nongovernmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society. View the ISO Standards list.