Leading social enterprises are reinventing themselves to bring meaning back to the workplace and human identity back to the worker
Business has always been the economic engine of society, but as society’s issues have grown more complex, the world is looking to organizations to do, and be, even more. These expectations have led to what we at Deloitte observed as “the rise of the social enterprise.” These are organizations whose purpose goes beyond revenue growth and profit-making to actively take on big issues and drive positive change for their stakeholders and for society at large. This rise is ongoing, but so are pressures for organizations to step it up — to move beyond purpose-driven mission statements and philanthropy to learn to lead the social enterprise — and reinvent themselves around a human focus.
Humans are getting lost in the shuffle
What’s been missing in many organizations’ search for “purpose” is the focus on the individual and the day-to-day challenges that workers are facing. Workers are losing their identities in the workplace partly as a result of organizations’ use of technology to gain a competitive advantage. Issues such as worker disengagement and growing financial and mental stress are clashing with employment realities such as contingent work and the prospect of long careers in even longer lives, and technology realities such as automation and cognitive AI. All of these have a human impact that hasn’t been accounted for. Organizations have the opportunity to reinvent themselves on a broad scale with the worker in mind to build identity and meaning for the worker.
To be able to counter this level of disruption effectively, organizations need to disrupt themselves — to reinvent their approaches to work, the workforce, and HR, recognizing that the range of issues they face can’t be addressed by just tinkering at the edges of the organization. To connect the need for meaning with the realities of life, work, and technology, leaders have to reinvent their organizations for the future and create opportunities for continuous learning, accelerated development, and professional and personal growth. Here are some ways leading organizations are making that happen.
Reinventing learning for the flow of life
Our No. 1 2019 Global Human Capital Trend is reinventing the way people learn, with 86 percent of survey respondents calling it important or very important. With the need to sustain 50- to 60-year careers as part of a 100-year life, lifelong learning has evolved from a matter of career advancement to workplace survival. Leading organizations are already on top of this, empowering individuals’ need to continuously develop skills by investing in new tools to embed learning not only in the flow of work, but also the flow of life.
Enabling a range of jobs and “superjobs”
A vast majority of organizations told us they expect to increase or significantly increase their use of AI, cognitive technologies, robotic process automation, and robotics over the next three years. But making full use of technologies doubles down on the need for the human dimension of work. Virtually every job must change to become more digital, more multidisciplinary, and more data- and information-driven. “Superjobs” are emerging, combining parts of different traditional jobs into integrated roles where people work with technology to be more productive and efficient.
But even as part of the workforce reorganizes into superjobs, lower-wage work across service sectors continues to grow, along with non-traditional contract, freelance, and gig employment, so it’s imperative that these jobs are not left behind. Organizations need to explore all options and create the culture and infrastructure where everyone has a place, which will be part of how organizational inclusion will be defined in the future.
Moving from employee experience to human experience
One of the biggest challenges we identified in our research is the need to improve the “employee experience.” Eighty-four percent of our survey respondents rated this issue important; 28 percent rated it urgent. Over the last five years, issues related to productivity, well-being, overwork, and burnout have grown, and in response, organizations should shift from the traditional employee experience to “human experience.” That means moving beyond thinking about experience at work in terms of perks, rewards, or support and focusing on job fit, job design, and meaning — for all workers across the enterprise.
What does reinvention look like? Depending on your organization’s readiness and need to change, reinvention can happen in one of three ways:
You can refresh: Update and improve the way you work now.
You can rewire: Create new connections that change the way you work.
Or you can recode: Start over and redesign from scratch.
What you can’t do is wait. The demand for — the need for — social enterprises isn’t going away, and surface-level responses aren’t enough to sustain your organization long-term. Leading the social enterprise is about purpose and meaning. How are you defining those in your organization?
Written by: Erica Volini, principal and US Human Capital leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP
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 Introduction, Deloitte 2019 Global Human Capital Trends: Leading the social enterprise: Reinvent with a human focus.