For months now, we’ve witnessed reports of companies announcing a shift back to pre-pandemic working policies.
From leading financial institutions to tech firms – leaders from almost every sector have decided it’s time to ‘get back to the office’.
For each company, the narrative and necessities are different.
Extensive research in recent years has shown the benefits and challenges with face-to-face, remote and hybrid working.
What’s clear is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
So, it’s imperative that CEOs take a considered, strategic approach to managing talent that meets both their businesses and people’s needs.
CEOs want to go (*CEOS want a…) return to the office
In KPMG’s 2023 CEO Outlook, we spoke to 1,300 leaders from some of the biggest companies across the world. Despite the extensive media coverage of the debate on return-to-work, our findings were revealing.
64% of CEOs told us they believe there will be a complete return to pre-pandemic ways of working within the next three years.
Even more strikingly, an overwhelming majority of leaders (87%) said they were likely or very likely to consider rewarding employees who make an effort to come into the office with favorable assignments, raises or promotions.
Working practice policies are organic and inevitably need to flex with changing market conditions and company growth strategies.
But I hold firm on the view that businesses that take a more flexible, collaborative approach that invites the concerns and aspirations of employees will reap the rewards in the long-term.
The data underscores the immense pressure on CEOs to make quick decisions on the big issues.
The war for talent may have softened in this period of economic uncertainty in some parts of the world, but the evidence suggests a one-size-fits-all approach to return-to-office could be detrimental.
It’s crucial that leaders take a long-term view that enables them to bring their employee value proposition to life, supports their people’s wellbeing and development, and enables them to deliver business results.
Diversity, inclusion and the C-Suite
Other survey findings in our report reveal the scale of the dilemma facing board rooms. 66% of CEOs told us that progress on diversity and inclusion has moved too slowly in the business world.
Meanwhile, just over half recognize that achieving gender equity in their C-Suite will help to assure their growth ambitions.
While the latter stat has dropped from last year’s high of 79%, there remains majority agreement that embracing inclusion, diversity and equity is beneficial for a business.
For many workers across the world, a more flexible approach to hybrid and remote working isn’t just empowering – it’s essential.
Employees with so much to give can often flourish if they’re given the opportunity to decide which approach works best to them.
For those with disabilities, or home responsibilities like social care or childcare, it’s less of a debate and more of a necessity.
With rising geopolitical and economic tensions and uncertainty throughout the world, there can be temptation to focus on the basics and pause or walk back from commitments on flexible working and wider diversity and inclusion, as well as ESG, projects and goals.
Indeed, our findings reveal that geopolitics is now the top perceived threat to CEOs, while more than three in four leaders are also concerned about cost-of-living pressures and tightening monetary policies, closely followed by increased regulation.
Making tough HR decisions
It goes without saying that today’s business leaders face some of the toughest decisions and challenges of a generation.
Reassuringly, almost three quarters of respondents told us they’re adopting a more collaborative leadership style – to share management and operational responsibilities and unlock greater success.
As new ways of working are established, and the future of work paradigm shift continues, workers at various levels are re-evaluating what is important to them, leading to the emergence of trends such as quiet quitting.
If this unknown terrain is to be successfully navigated, collaboration between organizations and their workers will be essential.
KPMG firms embraced a hybrid working model pre-pandemic that saw KPMG professionals spending time in the office, with their clients and at home. It is a model that is suitable for business, and this remains the case.
Balance is key and can only be achieved by listening to what employees want alongside the demands of the business to drive results.
It’s not an either/or, but both – as doing so can empower people to operate in a way that works for them and their teams.
Applying the same balanced, thoughtful approach to talent management and workplace policies could be a crucial component in helping to ensure that your business benefits when the global economy returns to a period of long-term, sustainable growth.
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