- Jeff Schwartz is the principal and senior advisor of Deloitte's Future of Work practice.
- Schwartz told Insider how executives should prepare for the future of work.
- Leaders are now more focused on the potential, adaptability, and well-being of their workforce.
- This article is part of a series called "Secrets of Success," which examines specific leadership tips from prominent business leaders.
As the leading senior advisor of Deloitte's Future of Work practice, Jeff Schwartz has spent a lot of time speaking with Fortune 500 executives about what the post-pandemic workplace is going to look like.
Discussions around the future of work cuts across all industries, Schwartz said. The past year has disrupted the way leaders approach work, and it forced them to create more flexibility for employees.
A number of major companies have shifted their business and talent-management strategies. The insurance company TIAA, for example, revoked its plans to scale back remote work and announced a 2022 policy in which employees could work on-site or virtually, or combine the two. Major tech companies such as Spotify and Twitter are allowing employees to work from anywhere. The COVID-19 crisis also pushed companies to invest in cloud-computing services to increase flexibility and efficiency in their systems.
Schwartz has worked at Deloitte for nearly 20 years, serving in positions such as the chief market officer of the firm's US Human Capital practice and the global coleader of talent services. He recently authored "Work Disrupted: Opportunity, Resilience, and Growth in the Accelerated Future of Work," detailing how corporate executives can build resilience and new strategies after COVID-19.
"Our clients are actually dealing with a lot of complexity right now," Schwartz said. "And in a complex world, you need to be multidisciplinary."
Insider spoke with Schwartz about how executives can prepare for the future of work.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you previously approach Deloitte's Future of Work practice before the pandemic, and how did the pandemic change that perspective?
In 2019, the future of work seemed like something that was a little bit off in the future. And when we talked about it - whether it was about work redesign or business strategies - those conversations were really about experimentations. Leaders in most organizations were approaching 2020 with a set of explorations on what's next.
But COVID-19 accelerated those experiments. We went from having 5% of the US population working remotely to 50%. We saw integrations between retail and e-commerce, physical classrooms and online learning, and doctors' offices with telemedicine.
I think of 2020 as the end of the experimentation phase. And the business agendas in 2021 and 2022 are going to address how we can actually work, operate, and live in a new way.
What kinds of conversations are you having with your clients right now about preparing for the future?
Our Human Capital Trends survey of 3,600 senior executives found that business leaders are simultaneously focused on three issues.
Their first focus is on the adaptability of their workforce to handle new skills and challenges. Secondly, executives are addressing their ability to decentralize and make rapid decisions in response to crisis. And their third focus is on digital technologies. Six out of 10 executives in the survey are telling us that they're approaching the post-COVID transformation as the reimagination of work.
They are acknowledging that they're not necessarily trying to return to the way things were, but they want to do it in a way that they're moving into the future.
How will these changes impact the workforce?
In terms of workforces, we always knew that everybody who works for us is capable of so much more than what we're asking them to do. At Deloitte, we call that the importance of human potential. And we got used to thinking that you are what we recruited you to do.
In 2020, we really focused on the potential and adaptability of our workforce. What became relevant wasn't what we hired you to do, but what you could do.
The expectations for the workforce are changing, and they're changing because our humanity was thrust to the forefront. All of a sudden, our physical health, mental health, and well-being are being considered. We saw that our personal and professional lives were integrated, even though it was always integrated. Well-being has always been important, but 2020 pushed that into the forefront. So businesses started thinking more deliberately about their employees' physical health, emotional well-being, and mental health.
Culture is under a lot of pressure right now because many of companies' cultural priorities were based on working in physical locations. We're all trying to figure out how to achieve those cultural attributes and continue to develop in a world that's more remote. If we figure this out, it's going to be really valuable because it will allow us to globalize our culture and do much more work internationally.