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The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward

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Deloitte Study: When Resilience Can Determine Organizational Survival, Only 16% of Business Leaders Expect to Significantly Increase Investment in the Continual Reinvention of the Workforce Over the Next Three Years

With COVID-19 creating urgency around workforce reinvention, it’s clear that while organizations have doubled down on investments in technology over the past decade, many have significantly underinvested in how humans could adapt to and embrace new ways of working.

Only 17% of respondents are making significant investments in reskilling to support their AI strategy with only 12% using AI primarily to replace workers;

At a time when workforce shifts are happening at warp speed, only 1 in 10 respondents are producing workforce insights in real time;

Just 27% of respondents have clear policies and practices to manage the ethical challenges resulting from the future of work despite 85% of respondents saying the future of work raises ethical challenges;

Three-quarters of leaders are expecting to source new skills and capabilities through reskilling, but only 45% are rewarding workers for the development of new skills; and

Only 45% of respondents are prepared or very prepared to take advantage of the alternative workforce to access key capabilities despite gig workers being likely to comprise 43% of the U.S. workforce this year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The need for a human focus has catapulted well-being and belonging into top concerns for organizations as the No. 1 and 2 trends, respectively, this year.

Twenty-six percent of respondents are not confident in HR’s ability to step-up and lead effectively, providing HR with the opportunity to demonstrate their strength to help organizations navigate the new normal created by the COVID-19 crisis.

Why it matters to business leaders
With the onset of COVID-19, organizations have had to take immediate actions in reaction to the pandemic, such as the shift to remote and virtual work, the implementation of new ways of working and redirecting the workforce on critical activities. Now organizations should be thinking about how to sustain these actions by embedding them into their organizational culture and DNA.

In its 10th annual 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report, “The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” Deloitte examines ways to create that level of sustainability by finding the intersection between humans and technology and defining the core attributes that need to be embedded in the organization to create and sustain that integration. Having surveyed approximately 55,000 business leaders over 10 years, this is the largest longitudinal study of its kind.

Social enterprise at work and bringing purpose to the forefront
In just a few short years, the concept of the social enterprise has evolved from an intriguing new concept into a concrete business reality. This year’s report focuses on how the social enterprise can find the integration between technology and humanity at a time when humanity is in the spotlight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This integration will enable lasting value and provide workers with an increased sense of belonging and well-being. In fact, almost half of this year’s respondents categorized their organization’s purpose as broadening extensively to include all stakeholders, including the communities they serve and society at large.

Based on our research, the three characteristics that need to be embedded into a social enterprise’s DNA to help them prepare for the future are: purpose (deepening the mission and values connection amongst teams, individuals and the work itself), potential (tapping into workers’ capability to contribute in new ways) and perspective (making bold decisions at a time of persistent change). Each requires significant shifts in workforce strategies and programs, but offers a clear path that organizations can follow to enable them to recover and thrive.

Worker well-being as an organizational responsibility through belonging
Although historically organizations were only responsible for workers’ safety, today nearly all respondents—96%—say that well-being is an organizational responsibility. Though 80% of respondents identified well-being as an important or very important priority for their organization’s success, 61% are not measuring the impact of well-being on organizational performance.

Well-being extends beyond physical health to employees feeling a sense of purpose and belonging. When asked how creating a sense of belonging supports organizational performance, 63% answered that it does so by enhancing alignment between individual and organizational objectives. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said that feeling aligned to the organization’s purpose, mission and values, and being valued for their individual contributions, are the most impactful ways to help ensure a sense of belonging.

Finding potential through the convergence of humans and technology
With the rapid integration of artificial intelligence (AI), workers are facing new realities of how they can work together with technology to bring out the best in one another. This year’s report found that only 12% of respondents said their organizations are primarily using AI to replace workers, while 60% said their organization was using AI to assist, rather than to replace, workers. Furthermore, 66% of respondents believed that the number of jobs would either stay the same or increase as a result of AI’s use in the next three years.

Building off last year’s chapter on “superjobs,” the concept of “superteams” combines people and machines, leveraging their complementary capabilities to help solve problems, gain insights, and create value—addressing a renewed sense of potential and creating new possibilities for the future.

Beyond reskilling and investing in resilience
With the “half-life” of technical skills decreasing, the use of forward-looking workforce metrics is critical for boards and investors to gain insights into the reskilling of workers. Yet organizations are least likely to collect workforce metrics in several critical areas, including the “status of reskilling,” with only 14% of respondents collecting analytics in this area. Organizations recognize that reskilling is important, with 53% of respondents saying between half and all of their workforce will need to change their skills and capabilities in the next three years. Yet, only 16% of business leaders expect to make a significant investment increase in the continual reinvention of the workforce over the next three years. With technical skills becoming outdated so quickly, organizations should be investing in longer lasting capabilities like creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and emotional intelligence that can keep their workforce relevant.

Although organizations are trying a variety of strategies to future proof their workforce, 68% of respondents report their organizations are currently making only moderate investments in reskilling or no investment at all. Thirty-two percent of respondents identified lack of investment as the greatest barrier to workforce development in their organization, with only 17% of respondents expressing confidence “to a great extent” that their organizations can anticipate the skills their organizations will need in three years.

Leaders must initiate and lead the dialogue around tech-related ethical concerns and the alternative workforce
A wide majority (85%) of respondents believe there are ethical concerns related to the future of work, including the maintenance of privacy, control of workers’ data, and the treatment of alternative workers. Twenty-seven percent of respondents say their organizations have clear policies and leaders in place to manage ethics in the context of the future of work, though 73% of respondents are either not addressing it, starting to develop their approach, or dealing with it on an ad hoc basis.

Organizations may be failing to recognize the importance of alternative workers, even as this workforce segment rapidly grows. For example, just 21% of organizations say their well-being strategy includes alternative workers. Looking ahead at the next decade, 80% of respondents rated “the radical shift in work, careers, and jobs due to AI and new employment models,” as important or very important. However, only 45% said they are prepared or very prepared for this shift—the lowest preparedness score for any of the issues surveyed as emerging challenges in the next 10 years. The ability to effectively tap into the alternative workforce can help organizations access scarce capabilities in rapidly changing work and job markets.

Closing the generational gaps through purpose
Age and career progression can no longer be seen on a linear path in the age of the “perennial.” With five distinct generations in the workplace, jobs have become more dynamic and complex than ever before. Leaders are taking notice: more than half of this year’s survey respondents (52%) report they consider generational differences to some or to a great extent when designing and delivering workforce programs. However, only 6% of respondents strongly agree their leaders are equipped to lead a multi-generational workforce effectively.

This year’s report revealed that respondents believe some generational gaps will become less pronounced in the next three years (views on work/life flexibility, expectations of loyalty/job security, and expectations of advancement), while others will become more pronounced (degree of technology-savvy, agility to shift roles, expectations of social impact).

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Small Businesses Adapting to Rapidly Changing Economic Landscape

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The World Economic Forum has long been at the forefront of recognizing the strategic importance of sustainable value creation objectives for business. While interest has mostly focused on how large corporations contribute to the global economy and sustainable development objectives, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are often overlooked as major drivers of economic activity, as well as social and environmental progress around the world.

A new report released today finds factors that previously disadvantaged SMEs can lead them to new opportunities. Nine case studies from multiple industries and regions highlight what SMEs can do to increase their future readiness.

Developed in collaboration with the National University of Singapore Business School, the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and Entrepreneurs’ Organization, the report also finds that SMEs are lagging behind in terms of societal impact. Although there is a clear need to operate in line with sustainability goals, many SMEs have yet to include explicit strategies and performance measurement centred on societal impact.

The top challenges cited by SME executives include talent acquisition and retention (for 52.5% respondents), survival and expansion (43.8%), funding and access to capital (35.7%), non-supportive policy environment (21%), the difficulty of maintaining a strong culture and clear company purpose and value (20%).

SMEs can leverage their size, networks, people and the strengths of technology to support their goals of sustainable growth, positive societal impact and robust adaptive capacity. While it is essential for SMEs and the wider economy to increase their future readiness, they can thrive only insofar as the necessary supporting infrastructure and regulatory frameworks exist.

“We hope this will inspire and encourage SMEs and mid-sized companies to harness their potential in becoming a major driver of sustainable and inclusive economic growth and innovation by focusing on several core dimensions of future readiness,” said Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum.

“Through this report, the Forum aims to highlight the significant role SMEs can play not just locally but also globally. The New Champions Community is a step towards bringing these smaller companies into the forefront of global discourse around socioeconomic development and engaging them in a community of forward-thinking companies from across the world,” said Stephan Mergenthaler, Head of Strategic Intelligence and Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

The report aims to develop a deeper understanding of organizational capabilities and orientations needed for SMEs to successfully generate lasting financial growth, affect society and the environment positively, and develop high levels of resilience and agility.

It relies on robust research methods and combines rigorous primary and secondary research. The takeaways and conclusions presented in the research have been derived from an analysis of over 200 peer-reviewed articles and engagement of more than 300 CEOs and founders of SMEs through surveys and in-depth interviews.

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France: Invest in skills, digitalisation and the green transition to strengthen the recovery

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Swift and effective government support has helped France to rebound rapidly from its COVID19-induced recession. Using the country’s announced Recovery and Investment Plans to invest in education, worker training, and the green and digital transitions should result in stronger and more resilient growth, according to a new OECD report.

The latest OECD Economic Survey of France says that while it is important not to prematurely withdraw support for households and firms, as the recovery gains traction support measures should increasingly be targeted at the most viable businesses and sectors and should favour investment. Professional training and support for workers transitioning to new jobs should be strengthened to ease labour market shortages and address the mismatch between skills and the needs of the business sector.

“France’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been swift and effective, enabling it to emerge from the health crisis with jobs and household incomes well protected and its economic capacity largely preserved,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said, launching the Survey alongside French Minister of Economy, Finance and Recovery Bruno Le Maire. “A rigorous implementation of the government’s Recovery and Investment Plans will help to turn the rebound into lasting sustained growth, building a greener, more digital and more resilient economy.”

After an 8.0% contraction in economic activity in 2020, the Survey projects a strong GDP rebound of 6.8% in 2021 and 4.2% in 2022 as domestic demand resumes. This follows a period of slower growth in France in the decade leading up to the COVID-19 crisis marked by weak gains in productivity and living standards. Low-skilled and young workers face difficulties in accessing the labour market and unequal opportunities have weakened inter-generational social mobility. The pandemic has also exposed a lag among small and medium-sized enterprises in adopting digital technologies.

These structural weaknesses can only be addressed through reforms, the Survey says. It calls for renewed efforts to boost skills to help sustain jobs and productivity growth. A combination of labour market, taxation and spending reforms could lead to a tangible increase in living standards in the years ahead, according to the Survey. 

It is particularly important to use the recovery period to improve the fiscal framework and notably the effectiveness of public spending through reviews and better allocation of resources, the Survey says. France’s public spending as a share of GDP is the highest of OECD countries, and the high level of social expenditures, notably on pensions, as well as looming pressure from an ageing population makes it vital to rebalance spending towards more investment. This would support growth and help to stabilise and then gradually lower the public debt-to-GDP ratio. 

The government has already pursued important reforms to reduce labour market segmentation and strengthen active labour market policies. Ensuring broad access to retraining and enforcing high quality standards for lifelong training courses would boost employment opportunities.

France has made the transition towards a greener economy a pillar of its recovery plan, and it is vital that this leads to increased private investment in green infrastructure and technology. Greater incentives are needed to drive behavioural changes within businesses and households. To be fully effective, this should extend to all available policy instruments, including regulation and R&D as well as progressively aligning carbon prices across sectors, albeit alongside complementary measures. To avoid unfair impacts on people and sectors, it is essential to support vulnerable households and firms, through targeted measures, for example help-to-buy schemes for clean vehicles and equipment.

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People are increasingly worried about inequalities but divided on how to address them

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Photo: Arno Senoner/Unsplash

For a recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that is strong, sustainable but also fair, it will be key to tackle inequalities and promote equal opportunities. Yet while there is growing consensus that inequality is a problem, people are increasingly divided about its extent and what to do about it, according to a new OECD report.

Does Inequality Matter? says that most people are concerned about inequality. Four in five people in the OECD feel income disparities are too large in their country. People care about inequality of both outcomes and opportunities, as they perceive high income and earnings disparities as well as low social mobility. Moreover, concern over income and earnings disparities has risen in the last three decades, in line with the increase in income inequality.

People’s perceptions are not disconnected from reality. Along the lines of observed trends in income inequality, people believed, on average, that top earners earned 5 times as much as bottom earners in the late 1980s/early 1990s, while this perceived top-to-bottom earnings ratio has increased to 8 today, after having reached a peak of 10 during the Great Recession. Tolerance for inequality has also increased, though by less. Today people believe, on average, that top earners should earn 4 times as much as the bottom earners, up from 3 times in the late 1980s.

More than 6 out of 10 OECD citizens believe their government should do more to reduce income differences between rich and poor with taxes and transfers. The more people are concerned about inequality and perceive low social mobility, the higher their demand for redistribution.

However, beliefs about effectiveness of policies and determinants of inequalities matter. People are less likely to demand more redistribution if they believe that benefits are mistargeted, and they are less in favour of progressive taxation if they believe that corruption is widespread among public officials, prompting the misuse and misallocation of public benefits.

Demand for more progressive taxation is also lower where people believe that disparities are justified by differences in personal effort, rather than to circumstances beyond people’s control. For example, in 2018 in Poland 25% of people believe poverty is due to lack of effort rather than injustice or bad luck and 54% demand more progressive taxation, while in Germany that figure is 4% and 77%, respectively.

Yet, despite most people being concerned about inequality, they have strongly different beliefs about its extent and what to do about it. Within the average OECD country, one fourth of people thinks that more than 70% of the national income goes to the 10% richest households, contrary to another fourth who think that less than 30% goes to the richest households.

Furthermore, the large heterogeneity of people’s views on inequalities has grown in the last three decades, even among people with similar socio-economic characteristics. There is evidence of growing polarization: in most OECD countries there is an increasing gap between those who believe inequality is high and those who believe it is low. More unequal countries have a more divided public opinion: in Chile and the United States – two among the most unequal OECD countries – the perceptions about the extent of the top richest 10% shares diverge the most.

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