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How COVID-19 is shaping 2021's workplace trends

Erica Volini, Global Human Capital Leader for Deloitte Consulting joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how companies are gearing up for the new normal of working from home and break down the future work trends in the new year.

Video Transcript

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, as the vaccine rolls out, the big question is, should we be dusting off our work bags and trying to remember what time we need to set our alarms to make the dreaded commute? Anyone remember that word? Back into work again? Well let's talk about workplace trends in 2021.

We've got Erica Volini. She is the Global Human Capital Leader at Deloitte Consulting. And Erica, you work with a lot of clients, and Deloitte also has a new report that details how remote work is going to make businesses kind of rethink their return to the office approach. So what were your major findings? What should we be looking forward to in the next year?

ERICA VOLINI: Let's start number one with the concept of worker empowerment and the role of workers moving forward. So in our 2021 Global Human Capital Trends Report, one of the things we found as we interviewed 3,600 business executives is that the vast majority said the number one factor in them being prepared for a world of disruption is their ability for workers to adapt, reskill, and assume new roles. Huge opportunity out there for workers to take on new opportunities, both at their current workplace and look for opportunities in other sectors or other industries. I think that's incredibly exciting out there.

Maybe the second most important finding is that those same 3,600 executives told us that in a post pandemic world they are focused on reimagining work. Before the pandemic they were using words like optimization, tweaking work around the edges, putting in some automation to change the way work's getting done. Now in a post pandemic world they are opening up the aperture and saying, let's completely rethink how work will get done.

Part of that, as you talked about, is hybrid work models, not having to be on site, in the office, or in the factory five days a week. Part of it is challenging the way work gets done through teams, breaking down organizational hierarchies, and embedding well-being into work in radically new ways. So I think a very exciting time as we enter into 2021, especially with the optimism around the vaccine coming right around the corner.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Lots of insights in this report, Erica. And I'm wondering if you can share with us some companies by name who are sort of at the forefront of this reimagining of work, as you're calling it, in 2021. Because as you say, you'd spoke to over 3,000 companies. Who is sort of leading the way in that area?

ERICA VOLINI: Probably one of my favorite stories in the report was from AstraZeneca. Very relevant given the vaccine development. We had the privilege of talking to one of their leaders in vaccine research and development. And what she told us is, they took a radically different approach to when they were developing the vaccine. They really emphasized teaming. But when they put together their teams, they didn't just put together experts who knew how to research and develop vaccines. They also brought members onto the team who just had a passion and energy, to use their exact words, around what they were trying to accomplish.

And they also brought in individuals from outside the organization to build an ecosystem to actually start to tackle this tough issue. And what they told us is, this the way they believe work should be happening moving forward. And I agree. We've seen the influx of teams coming into organizations for a while, but now seeing it as the standard for the way work gets done, breaking down those functional and organizational lines, and allowing individuals to have different experiences, gaining new skills, and capabilities, that's pretty exciting.

We also talked to CEO of ServiceNow, Bill McDermott, who told us that they pretty much scrapped their plans when the pandemic hit and got into rapid application development, really moving in a much more agile manner and allowing their workers to feel as though they had to bring their full innervation to the table. I think that's another great example that we were able to surface in our report this year.

BRIAN CHEUNG: And Erica, that's a really good example with AstraZeneca because I think there's a stereotype that only tech companies can adapt during this time, and that there are some industries that you just simply can't remove that in-person aspect, like maybe vaccine development. Apparently not the case. But broadly speaking, we're talking about companies here that you work with that have tens of thousands of employees in many cases. And obviously, the use case in each specific employee's situation might be different to how adaptable they are to working remotely or not. So how do you approach that when there are so many employees in some of these companies? What's the first step that you take? What types of tools can you use to kind of discern where can you make changes?

ERICA VOLINI: Well it's a great question. And I would say this is applicable across every industry. I mean, the CEO of Delta Airlines, Ed Bastian, talked about the ability of their workers to pivot. He talked about flight attendants, who they were able to say had health safety training and were able to pivot into the health safety space, which I thought was a great story.

And that really is the starting point. Let's inventory and understand what workers' potential actually is. We are too reliant on the resume to tell us what a person is capable of doing. How do we look past the resume and what they have done to assess their true potential?

And then once we understand their potential, how do we give them exposure to all the different experiences they can get within the organization itself? Help them take on new projects, new roles, maybe without even shifting jobs. Because in a world where workers are going to live until easily 100. They're going to work for 40 to 50 years. Their ability to be resilient, to be able to have the capabilities that transcend multiple jobs and multiple roles becomes critical. And I think we saw a lot of those stories during the pandemic.

And going back to the AstraZeneca example, that's a great example of looking at individual's potential. What we call the passion of the explorer. Their energy and desire to want to contribute, and looking past whether they have specific skills, putting people together to form the most optimal teams. So those are some starting points that I would-- I think organizations should consider. We're seeing many new technologies out there that allow organizations to really do that in a much faster, more efficient way.

BRIAN CHEUNG: All right. Well 2021 may be a very different world than what we're seeing, at least right now, or even pre-pandemic. But Erica Volini, a Global Human Capital Leader at Deloitte Consulting. Thanks so much for joining us.

ERICA VOLINI: Thanks for having me.