Returning to Work in the Future of Work
Remaining Human in a Technology-Driven World

A Q&A with Deloitte’s Dan Berner and Kevin Knowles.

Since 2018, we have seen the speed and scale of change continue to accelerate, with technological advances bringing bigger and bolder changes in shorter windows of time. But as new technologies and digital transformations dominated conversations in organizations, human concerns were considered separate from, if not directly in conflict with, technological advances. However, given the change occurring within workforces today, there may be ways to remain distinctly human in a technology-driven world.

In this Q&A, we’ll get perspectives from one of Deloitte’s local leaders on a new set of attributes that can create lasting value in organizations based Deloitte’s “2020 Global Human Capital Trends Survey.”

Dan Berner, North Texas managing partner, Deloitte (DB): What has COVID-19 revealed about this paradox between technology and human behavior?

Kevin Knowles, US Human Capital leader and principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP (KK): COVID-19 has reinforced our conviction that human concerns are not separate from technological advances at all, but integral for organizations looking to capture the full value of the technologies they’ve put in place. As organizations looked to adapt their ways of working in response to the crisis, they found that, in many—though not all—parts of the world, technology was not the greatest challenge, but rather building models to integrate humans with those technologies.

A few examples of those are: to create new habits and management practices for how people adapt, behave, and work in partnership with the technology available to them; to fulfill distinctly human needs such as the desire for meaning, connection, and well-being at work; to maximize worker potential through the cultivation of capabilities; and to safeguard ethical values.

DB: Where or how does a North Texas business start or shift their thinking and strategies for the future?

KK: COVID-19 has challenged business leaders to do three things at once: stage the return to work, understand and leverage the advancements they enacted during the crisis, and chart a new path forward. So, focusing on the return to work alone is not a viable option, as it will not allow organizations to capitalize on all that they have experienced and learned over the past few months.

In our Global 2020 Human Capital Trends report, we provide a view on how to start that process through a set of recommendations and frameworks—all of which focus on the importance of Purpose, Potential and Perspective.

DB: Can you give me a couple examples of what is included in this framework and some of the new possibilities we can consider?

KK: COVID-19 reminded us that people are motivated at the highest levels when they can connect their work contributions to a greater purpose and mission and create a sense of Belonging. People want to contribute to their organizations when they understand how their unique talents, strengths, and contributions are making an impact on larger goals.

As organizations stage the return to work, they should seize this opportunity to step back and make sure that they are creating clear connections across individual jobs, team objectives, and the organization’s mission. To strengthen the link between belonging and organizational performance, organizations need to do more than treat their workers fairly and respectfully; they must enable a deeper connection by drawing visible linkages as to how their contributions are making an impact on the organization and society as a whole.

DB: What about the potential that lies with a workforce to maximize how they think, create and do in a world of machines?

KK: If you think about Potential in your workforce, one shift is to think that it’s beyond reskilling and more about investing in resilience for uncertain futures.

COVID-19 reinforced that it is more important to understand what workers are capable of doing than understanding what they have done before. Through this crisis, the world has had the opportunity to see the resilience and adaptability of the workforce as workers quickly assumed new roles and even contributed to opportunities in different fields and industries.

The possibility is that organizations should consider how to encourage and offer opportunities for workers to continue to grow and adapt based on their potential, rather than solely on their existing skills or certifications. Now is not the time to pull back on workforce development efforts, but instead to double down on commitments to building a resilient workforce that can adapt in the face of constant change.

DB: I know there’s a lot more to this thinking, but what’s a simple takeaway about how we should all be thinking about our organizations?

KK: Organizations face a choice between returning to a post-COVID world that is simply an enhanced version of yesterday OR building one that is a sustainable version of tomorrow. The risk is more than that of falling behind—it’s the possibility of never catching up at all. Deloitte has produced the “Capital H: A Human Capital Podcast Series” that provides perspectives on this new future and engages with leaders around the U.S. in their views and how they are building towards the future.

Dan Berner is the North Texas managing partner of Deloitte. Kevin Knowles is a principal and the US Human Capital and Digital Enterprise Transformation leader based in Dallas, Deloitte Consulting LLP. To learn more about Deloitte’s “2020 Global Human Capital Trends Report: The social enterprise at work: Paradox as a path forward,” click here.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About Deloitte
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Copyright © 2020 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.

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