Davos WEF 2022 | Manpower Group CEO On How Pandemic Shaped The Future Of Work

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a long-term impact on how people work and offers a “glimpse into the future” of employment and jobs, according to Jonas Prising of Manpower Group.

One of the lasting legacies of the pandemic will be expectation of more flexibility at work, Prising, chairman and chief executive officer at the staffing and placement firm, told BQ Prime’s Menaka Doshi on sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday. But it’s not just that.

“During the pandemic we got a glimpse into the future of work, as it relates to the acceleration of structural trends,” Prising said. “What’s it like when demography means there are less workers available in the market. What’s it like when technology is accelerating rapidly, when we have to work and collaborate in very different ways than we used to. What’s it like when employees make choices not only based on compensations, but on their aspirations, looking for companies that will represent their values, other benefits. And finally, how companies react to this environment…”

Prising said talent shortages have emerged across industries during the pandemic as either companies released a large numbers of their workforce or they quit in search of better opportunities.

Yet, according to him, the ‘Great Resignation’ or the high attrition rates during the two years of the pandemic would soon be over. This attrition is a symptom of a tight labour market where demand for both goods and services and labour is high, leading to wage inflation. He expects wage inflation to moderate and return to normal as economies worldwide slow down by the end of the year.

Some changes, however, will be lasting. And changed employee-employer terms are forcing companies to reconsider policies.

Flexibility Is The Answer

Prising said the move by some companies to a four-day workweek was an outcome of employees’ desire for flexibility. In the early 20th century, a 70-hour, seven-day workweek was common, he said. In the present day, companies have 40-hour, five-day workweeks, and there is flexibility in workdays between professions. This trend is likely to continue.

Women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, he said. And such flexibility will help them balance personal and professional lives better, he said. Organisations are trying very hard to get women back by offering them much flexibility, Prising said.

Upskilling, Reskilling Needed

Prising said the “defining challenge of our times” will be to “bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots” in organisations. Companies need to invest heavily in upskilling and reskilling their employees, he said. Technology is accelerating very rapidly and some organisational structural changes will be visible after the pandemic, he said.

Gig Economy Working On Margin

The gig economy is a trend that will evolve, according to Prising. It’s “trading on the margin”, trying to get hold of excess capacity for products and services, the Manpower Group head said. “But as there is no excess capacity today, so workers will look for other choices”

Employer-employee relationships will need to be established in the gig economy, too, if full-time gig work is to become common, he said.

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