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Why Work Must Change!

Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink
Welcome to the first newsletter after my summer break. I also took a 2 week social media break, which was a lot less difficult than I expected! I didn’t miss it all! And had more time to read good books…
I hope you also had the opportunity to step away for a while and decompress.
First, a personal update: I am now partner at Strategic Management Centre, a strategy and governance advisory. My focus will be Strategy, People and Technology (no surprise there). The official announcement goes out next week, so I’m giving you a bit of a scoop!
Also, my website has been redesigned. Take a look at and let me know what you think.
I usually focus on one topic, but In this edition of the newsletter I bring together a couple of interesting ideas that came up during my break and I thought were worthwhile to share with you.
The next edition will return to the usual format.
It’s nice to be back! Happy reading, Anita

We really have too many vacancies!
In the Netherlands, for the first time in 50(!) years, we have more vacancies than workers: 106 per 100 workers to be precise. And I could easily add the same chart for other countries. So does that mean the labor shortage is real?
I still say it depends.
If you’ve seen my posts about the “Great Resignation” and the labor shortage, you know I don’t think there is an easy answer. The outlook can be very different, even for similar businesses in the same industry.
What I do know is that every business needs to assess if they are attractive to their future workers, and if not, make sure they will be or risk not being able to fill their vacancies. But that is nothing new.
There are several factors at play, and we’re in the middle of the perfect storm, also because of the pandemic:
  • people care for dependents
  • governments hire people to manage testing and vaccinations
  • migrant workers are unable to enter the country
and the list goes on. If you want more background, take a look at the 12 reasons why you can’t find any workers right now. And before you ask, withholding benefits will not solve the labor shortage. The article also includes links to research on that topic.
A fundamental cause for the labor shortage is the mismatch between available and requested skills. We’re in the midst of moving from the industrial age to the digital age and that means workers will have to learn new skills. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg here, and this can only be solved when companies and governments work together to fundamentally change the education system.
But the bottom line is: it’s more important than ever to have solid workforce insights. Know your current and future workforce. Who are they and where can you find them? Who can you upskill? Strategize and plan to acquire the skill sets you need not only today, but 2 or 3 years from now.
Why work must change!
Are you familiar with Future Forum? I stumbled upon their website and thought it worth sharing.
Their mission is close to my heart:
Future Forum enables leaders to reimagine work through data and dialogue, to create a people-centric and digital-first future of work.
I especially like the focus on data. The forum has a database with survey results from over 10,000 knowledge workers and they share their findings in free reports.
How work gets done has been fundamentally the same for decades. People have changed, technology has advanced, but we’re still using management techniques designed for the industrial age. That’s why they come with a new leadership manifesto.
The Manifesto argues it’s time for a leadership revolution and continues to point out why the abundance of new technologies require companies to adopt new approaches to leadership.
It will be interesting to see where they take this. The Manifesto is a recommended read.
Work must change: our manifesto - Future Forum
Going back to the office? Not yet!
During the summer we learned that the pandemic is far from over and you can be infectious while being fully vaccinated. Infection rates are rising again, and with the indoor season approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, most of the companies that wanted their workers back in the office by September 1st have pushed that day forward to 2022.
It’s sobering to realize that by then, people will have worked from home for almost 2 years! New joiners never even visited the office of the company they work for.
Phillipa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, discovered in a study that it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit and consider it normal behavior.
Which means that working from anywhere is our normal now. Isn’t it strange that going back to the office in 2022 will feel like learning a new habit? Fortunately we have prior experience!
Some people believe we’ve come too far and we’ll never use the office like we did in the past. Companies will lease less space. Startups are jumping on the opportunity to repurpose these commercial spaces. The following article takes a look at the different ideas that they are bringing forward to attract investors:
Is working from home a benefit?
Employers seem to think so. And they want their employees to accept a pay cut because they don’t have to come into the office. The great debate about the connection between location and pay is heating up again.
For many years, companies have used local, average salaries as benchmark for their salary scales. But when work is borderless, what does that mean for rewards? If I pay $1000 for a certain task, does the location of that person determine the price? Or is it all about the expertise and outcomes?
This has always been a hotly debated topic. I know from personal experience that the majority of companies pay people a local salary when they move to a different country. They use local benchmarks based on local living standards.
The most important reason is that they want to treat employees fairly - you don’t want 2 people sitting next to each other doing the same job earn different salaries, because one used to live in a higher cost country and brought that with them.
But when you work from anywhere, you can rightfully ask: why is my expertise less valuable in a low cost country than in a high cost one? My value to the company does not change when I move.
It’s not an easy topic and companies have to tread carefully.
What I do find fascinating is that companies that were very vocal about pay equity, and made big announcements last year around equal pay for equal work, are debating whether working from home should come with a pay cut. Are office workers now more equal than others?
My best guess is that given the current labor shortage, this is more of a consideration than actual intent. In addition, in many countries it isn’t legal to adjust salaries downward. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer new employees a lower starting wage in return for working from home.
This is far from over, and I fully expect to revisit this topic in the next months.
68% of employers consider pay cuts for home workers - Employee Benefits
The C-Suite still doesn't agree on the talent shortage
Before the pandemic hit, the Talent topic was a Top 3 item on every board agenda. In 2020, as companies adopted survival strategies the topic was deprioritized by many.
A recent pulse survey from PWC points out that people in the C-Suite now have different views on the importance and impact of employee turnover. And that’s not good for your workforce strategy.
The “Great Resignation” is well underway: nearly nine in ten executives say their company is experiencing higher turnover than normal. But not every executive sees that as an issue.
Unsurprisingly, CHROs say retaining employees will be their number-one priority over the next three to six months. They are the ones who deal with this topic on a daily base and see that vacancies remain unfulfilled.
But 45% of CFOs are only somewhat concerned about turnover and its impact on growth. They expect it to return to pre-pandemic levels more quickly. In other words, they consider this a temporary issue.
I hope they are right, but wonder if these CFOs fully grasp the magnitude of current trends and how employee expectations are changing. The survey reports that employees mostly want schedule flexibility, expanded benefits and compensation.
If you can’t or won’t offer that, you will simply not be an attractive employer. That will be a problem once the baby boomers leave the workforce and you’ll need to replace them. It’s tough hiring good people right now. And it won’t get any easier.
PwC US Pulse Survey: Next in work
Join me at Innovate2021:
Between September 2 and 17 all sessions are available for free!
You can watch my keynote: Skills – The Foundation of your Strategic Workforce Plan
Join the fire side chat I had with TIm Peffers: Workforce Planning at the speed of light … while keeping it human(e)!
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Anita Lettink
Anita Lettink @let_anita

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