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The new “normal” in the post-COVID world – Research

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Kuldeep Singh
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Mid-level workers, new entrants and women are more worried

As organizations prepare for new ways of working and define their goals, priorities and strategies following the emergence of COVID-19, there seems to be a significant gap between the expectations of business leaders and employees regarding the post-COVID world.

The new study is based on the Workforce Transformation survey conducted by the Adecco Group Foundation.

The study highlights the gap in the views of the two categories of survey participants, mainly on the following issues:

Digital transformation – business leaders are more optimistic than employees about the positive effects of technology on the future world of work.

Remote work – leaders predict an upward trend towards remote work, while employees expect more flexible work schedules and a hybrid model to combine remote work with office work.

Sustainability and safety – operational sustainability is a priority for leaders and less so for employees, while the latter have more concerns for their well-being and safety in the new conditions that are emerging.

Skills – State-of-the-art technology skills are described as very important by both leaders and employees, but the two sides differ on the strengths of soft-skills, such as resilience and emotional intelligence, which employees do not place as high as leaders.

However, it is worth noting that while employees ‘and business leaders’ expectations for the future differ, they are not mutually exclusive.

Business leaders appear more optimistic about the future

According to the survey, 43% of business leaders expect a better working world after the pandemic, while among employees who say they are optimistic drops to 35%. Workers are expected to emerge from the pandemic feeling more uncertain about their future careers.

The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation, making entrepreneurs look forward to a technology-driven future of economic growth. On the other hand, workers were already skeptical about the impact of automation on jobs and the pandemic came to heighten their concerns.

Middle managers, women and young professionals appear less optimistic about their future careers

Employees aged 41-50, members of Generation X, are less optimistic about their future career prospects. They believe that they are less likely to accept new professional proposals.

The group of workers aged 18-30, consisting of Generation Z and the younger representatives of millennials, also feel that they are in a difficult position. They face the high risk of losing their jobs due to the increase in automation and are struggling to secure a start in the professional arena.

In addition, women are less optimistic than men, as the gender gap in quality and type of jobs and wage levels makes them more vulnerable.

Research shows that jobs in Human Resources, Sales and Customer Service are more likely to be automated, with administrations facing the greatest risk of automation. Women are more prone, as they are highly represented in many of these professions.

The Gap between Employees ‘and Leaders’ Views on Priorities in the Post-Covid 19 Era

In general, the views of business leaders and workers on the long-term changes to be made at the workplace after the pandemic differ significantly, but the issue of hygiene is expected to emerge as a key priority for both categories.

Employees believe that companies should prioritize the needs of their people by offering training, safety at the workplace through the implementation of strict hygiene protocols, and the provision of the necessary equipment for remote work. At the same time, another important point highlighted by the research is that employees want to have financial support in future crises.

On the other hand, the main priorities of the entrepreneurs are focused on the smooth continuation of the operation of the company, by supporting the distance work and ensuring the appropriate equipment for the employees. The following are the priorities of strengthening the work culture and ensuring hygiene in the workplace.

However, the biggest gap in priorities is on issues related to employee well-being and safety – with a difference of more than 50 percentage points in terms of providing financial support and quality health care and more than 30 percentage points in terms of securing jobs.

Employers and employees approach the issue of skills with different priorities

The difference in how employers and employees approach skills reveals the mismatch between the skills now being developed and those will be required in the future by the business world. High-level technical skills and knowledge in areas such as data science and information analysis are valuable to employers, but so-called “soft skills” are just as important.

Employees tend to underestimate the importance of soft skills, such as critical thinking, creativity and communication, and seem to overestimate technical skills (hard skills), such as managing new technologies.

Distance learning may have highlighted the need for hard skills, but the findings show that in the long run, the need for well-developed soft skills necessary in the new conditions (such as resilience and emotional intelligence) will also be very important.

Understanding the characteristics of the workforce is the key to recovery
According to the Adecco Group, the pandemic crisis is accelerating the transformation of economies, industries and businesses. Companies are changing their strategies, digitizing and greatly automating their processes.

Employees see an uncertain future ahead of them, with jobs disappearing and new ones emerging, which require different skills.

These developments run the risk of increasing social polarization and not taking advantage of opportunities. Governments and business leaders must therefore equip their workforce with the skills needed in the new economy and labor market, thus giving workers the opportunity to seize all the new opportunities presented to them after the crisis, so that the recovery can come faster.

Lifelong learning in the working world

Commenting on the research findings, Adecco Group CEO Alain Dehaze said: “It is essential that companies, governments and employees ally themselves to ensure that the necessary skills are developed for the future.”

Employers need to upgrade their workers’ skills, offering opportunities to better return “equipped” to the labour market. They should recognise skills gaps and develop methods to monitor their organisation’s progress in relation to lifelong learning, creating individualised development plans based on the needs of their employees.

The Workforce Transformation survey involved 1,055 employees and 204 business executives. Both groups of respondents come from different industries in the US and Europe.

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