· Insights

The new normal isn’t working – what now?

Workforce disruption isn’t slowing, and it’s causing friction between employers and workers. Many UK employers with investments in brick-and-mortar locations are encouraging a full or partial return to the office to promote in-person collaboration.

But the pandemic fundamentally shifted how work gets done, and many workers are calling for greater flexibility, loudly – 30,000 Amazon employees recently signed a petition opposing a return-to-office order.

This tension was also reflected in the Kelly 2023 Global Re:work Report – which examines  workforce insights from senior leaders and talent across several areas of workplace satisfaction.

Shockingly, 41% of UK workers said they were doing the bare minimum their role requires, while 40% admit they don’t have a satisfactory work-life balance (compared to 37% globally).

And it’s not just employees who are feeling unsettled; 63% of UK executives reported poor performance in workforce capability, and 42% of global leaders say they are failing to unlock the full potential of their workforce.

The new normal doesn’t feel like it’s working for talent or employers, so where do we go from here? Workforce Resilience Leaders could hold the answer.

Our global survey identified a small group of organisations, workforce resilience leaders, who are enjoying impressive business performance, employee productivity, and customer satisfaction.

The report also spotlights three ways they’re do things differently. By focusing on these pillars, it can help organisations attract and retain the best talent despite a challenging work landscape.

Pillar One: Workforce Agility

The need to flex a workforce – tapping into specific skills and quickly reassigning employees according to need – has never been more important.

Hiring freezes and budget cuts mean that leaders need to think more innovatively when it comes to leveraging the skills they have.

Less than half of executives (47%) believe their workforce is resilient, and this lack of resilience is having a major impact on their business, but contingent workers are crucial to injecting the flexibility they need.

Approximately 61% of workforce resilience leaders have a fully developed strategy for contingent talent vs 32% of other organisations, and helping them outperform their competition.


Pillar Two: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Nearly a quarter of UK executives (24%) said their business was poor on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) directly impacting their ability to attract and retain talent.

Organisations which ignore DEI may miss out on or push away skilled workers. Almost 40% of workers in the UK told us that they do not feel a sense of belonging to their organisation (compared to 36% of workers worldwide).

It’s also important to note that remote and flexible working can be crucial to increasing diverse voices and experiences inside an organisation.

Workers with disabilities or care responsibilities may be unable to engage in work without flexible accommodations. By extending how people connect with work, leaders can reach a wider pool of talent.  

Pillar Three: Workforce Capability  

In a competitive skills market, it’s vital to shape a workforce with the right skills blend. This means investing in training to ensure a business can meet its strategic goals.

Despite this, just 24% of UK executives say addressing the skills gap is a high priority for their leadership teams, but this could be a severe misstep. 75% of workforce resilience leaders have implemented accelerated training programmes to upskill talent.

This commitment to development ensures workforce resilience leaders can effectively leverage skills inside their business. Skills development also plays a significant role in retention. One third (33%) of the UK workers we surveyed are likely to leave their job in the next 12 months, and 34% point to lack of skills development as the cause (it was the highest reason for a potential exit along with poor work-life balance).

There’s no simple way to create a world of work that works for everyone, but a rigid approach is unlikely to succeed. Every person inside a business – including leaders and executives – is a worker, and creating an environment where people feel engaged, supported, and developed is crucial, whatever the external pressures.

Talking and listening is often the first step – who are your people, how do they want to work, how can you meet them where they are? Visible action is also key – building a culture where leaders are visibly doing the right thing can make your organisation a sought-after destination for the best talent.  


Adelle Harrington is vice president EMEA at KellyOCG