New way of work sees increase in productivity, decrease in employee trust

Lean in to data insights to make deliberate decisions, says PwC’s Dayalan Govender.

Many companies have boosted workforce productivity and performance during the pandemic, but cultural and leadership speedbumps have arisen that are inhibiting the creation of robust workforce strategies.

This is according to new research from PwC, which shows that remote and hybrid working has provided a short-term productivity boost in most workplaces.

However, productivity and performance gains may have come at the expense of longer-term employee trust. In fact, only 31 percent of the business and HR leaders surveyed strongly believe their organisation is building high levels of trust between workers and their direct supervisors. Burnout may be partially responsible as nearly three-quarters are not fully confident that workload is manageable enough for employees to make full use of personal time.

The research found effective organisational planning can pay dividends. Companies that undertook both scenario-based planning (where leaders anticipate their needs for multiple possible futures) and dynamic planning (whereby leaders build responsiveness into plans) were 30 percentage points more likely to perform at or above financial and other targets than those who use neither approach.

Additionally, companies that undertake dynamic planning alone, compared to those who embark on scenario-based planning alone, see about a 10-percentage-point advantage.

Digitisation will continue to be a top concern for leaders, and there is currently a gap between the heightened role technology will play in the workforce strategy and an understanding of the risks.

In South Africa, 49 percent of survey respondents strongly agree that they have the ability to adjust their workforce in response to changes in the market. In addition, 46 percent say it is important to closely align the workforce strategy to the business strategy and align this to the hybrid ways of working.

Dayalan Govender, partner in PwC’s People and Organisation division said, “For organisations to thrive, they need to access their people’s full potential and develop and execute new dynamic strategies. Leaders need to act vigorously and quickly to strengthen their organisations for the most pressing challenges and prepare for the future of work.”

A focus on skills needs should also be included as a planning imperative. A third of the HR and business leaders surveyed say it’s very important to identify the skills the organisation will need in the future due to technological change but only 26 percent strongly agree they can currently do this.

Thirty-seven percent of South African respondents strongly agreed that they are able to identify the skills the organisation will need in the future due to technological change. Forty percent stated that they collaborate with educators to address skills gaps in their respective organisations, while 26 percent of local respondents said they also made use of workforce analytics to predict and monitor skills gaps in their organisations. Furthermore, 31 percent strongly agreed that they would be able to reskill and deploy workers if the need arose.

Dayalan added, “Leaders will need to lean into data insights and develop their ability to use it to make more deliberate decisions. They also have to invest in new cloud technologies, automation and data models that fuel outcomes-based decision-making and meaningful returns on investment.”