The evolving workplace

People were pushed by the COVID-19 pandemic into living virtual lives and working remotely. But a lot of the workplace change was coming anyway, says Jose Marques, Partner People and Organisation at PwC Switzerland. The virus response just accelerated and amplified it.

Magazine: Work in progress – November 2020

Work times and workplaces – how will these look in future?

The COVID-19 outbreaks created a laboratory for offices of the future by forcing people to work remotely and differently. Working from home requires being more digital. This is a great opportunity to reskill and upskill ourselves, at scale. Another aspect related to this is flexible working. Government work rules need to accommodate it, and still protect workers. Company policies on this are therefore evolving. Creating a sense of community with your people at the centre matters more than ever.

Old jobs are dying, new jobs are born. What does this mean for companies?

According to PwC’s report “Hopes & Fears”, 53% of workers believe automation will significantly change or make their job obsolete within the next ten years. But automation is also about the opportunity for more meaningful work and finding new, value-adding things to do. Companies have to help with the transformation too. New technology – yes. Training to use it – definitely. There’s no point in investing in technology unless your people can use it properly.

Jose Marques
Partner, PwC Switzerland

There is a mismatch of skill supply and skill demand – how do we solve it?

Skill requirements are continually changing, and today with COVID-19, we have seen unques­tionable evidence that we need digital, soft and business skills. Organisations need, especially now, to consider their future needs in terms of skills, employees and jobs. It’s cheaper to train than to recruit and bring new hires up to speed. PwC Luxembourg worked with the government of Luxembourg on an iconic project in this space. They created an ecosystem with a job market: individuals’ skills are matched to internal jobs and then training is coordinated to address skill gaps. Also, help is given in finding external positions for those who want to leave. For organisations in our current world, this is essential.

How has leadership changed in the past 20 years?

Current developments teach us that not every­thing can be solved and led by technology. Machine learning and artificial intelligence cannot save us yet. The true heroes of today are definitely humans like medical experts and crisis managers. Today’s leaders need to be maestros – like conducting an orchestra. They bring an ensemble together to be greater than the sum of its parts. They also need a purpose and a vision, with strong values. Leaders must articulate a strategy and then sell it to employees, to customers, to suppliers, to investors. They need to be able to handle the unknown, or even a crisis like today’s, which we could never have imagined.

Diversity and inclusion – are these just about political correctness?

They’re a must. At PwC Switzerland, diversity and inclusion are seen as business imperatives not just nice-to-haves. We create value through diversity. Studies have proven that organisations with a diverse workforce, that make employees feel they belong and offer them support, do better economically and make better decisions. A successful company needs the collective engagement of its workforce.

Jose Marques, thanks for your thoughts.