Charles Bendotti, Senior Vice President, People & Culture, Philip Morris International
The business world adapted to COVID-19 with speed, yet, fast-forward to 2021, and many questions remain unanswered. What will the post-COVID world look like? What will change forever?
As we continue to reflect on the implications of COVID-19 in the context of the future world of work, I’ve noticed some recurring patterns and ideas.
A new social contract?
This crisis has taught us to value frontline workers, who are making sure we get the essentials we need to survive—whether that’s scientists manufacturing vaccines, healthcare workers, paramedics, hospital cleaning staff, or our local grocers. Companies that recognize the special efforts of their frontline employees won’t be forgotten after the crisis. Nor will the individuals working hard in our factories, and in other areas, to ensure business continuity (I’m personally very proud of the commitments PMI made to its employees during the early days of lockdown).
As many countries begin to emerge from lockdown restrictions, will we see leaders advocate more for people, the planet, and for “better”? We’ve already started to see some leaders calling COVID-19 an acid test for stakeholder capitalism. And countries like the Netherlands are exploring the “doughnut model” of economic theory—where health, jobs, and housing, care and community (the doughnut’s inner circle) are the foremost goal of today’s economic activities, within the planet’s means (the doughnut’s outer circle).
From a business perspective, I imagine that organizations infusing a “people first” ethos into the fabric of their workplace, together with a strong focus on not overshooting the limits of our planet, will become tomorrow’s employers of choice.
Building a culture of care and compassion
The COVID-19 lockdowns in many countries have also shown us that remote work is possible—and with that, the days of “presence equals performance” are truly over. It’s clear to me that how we work in the future is set to change forever as more remote, flexible ways of working become the norm.
Technology sits at the center of this effort, as organizations—large and small—seek to forge a renewed sense of belonging and connection among employees, regardless of workplace location.
I imagine that organizations infusing a “people first” ethos into the fabric of their workplace, together with a strong focus on not overshooting the limits of our planet, will become tomorrow’s employers of choice.
I foresee the creation of new workplace cultures, too—cultures founded on greater compassion and kindness, both in our behaviors and our communications.
For many, the crisis has brought the added responsibilities and daily pressures of our colleagues’ lives into focus—perhaps for the first time. We need to continue to engage our people and to embed more empathetic ways of driving positive shifts in behavior and staff performance in future. And HR teams will be at the forefront of this effort. Mental health and well-being will no longer be the concern of I&D teams alone, but rather a chief consideration on everyone’s agenda.
The pandemic has revealed a need to future-proof organizations and their operations in completely new ways. No one has all the answers. But, as we look to the future, one thing is clear: The organizations fostering a future-focused mindset, and who are committed to helping their people build resilience and agility will surely emerge stronger, ready for whatever lies ahead.
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