Humans and Technology: Our Trends report discusses how technology can help us improve human capabilities, like practicing emotional intelligence and fostering creativity and teaming. Leaders should harness technologies that help their people and teams become the best possible versions of themselves. AI-based technologies can nudge workers to learn new behaviors, correct old behaviors, and sharpen skills.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Kraig Eaton.

Kraig is a principal in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s US Human Capital service area and serves as the co-lead of the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends team. Kraig has more than 28 years of experience working with senior business and HR executives to transform their Human Capital strategies and capabilities to better support the business goals of the organization. Specifically supporting some of the world’s leading organizations on efforts spanning the full spectrum of HR and workforce transformations; from upfront strategy development through large-scale operating model, organization, and technology implementations.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?

My father worked for IBM and traveled the globe in support of his role in their technology strategy organization. Upon returning from his travels far and wide, he would share stories (and often bring back souvenirs) about the countries and cultures he visited. From an early age, I was intrigued by travel and experiencing what the world had to offer. I guess without knowing it, I was destined to be a globe-trotting consultant.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce, and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

Leaders’ ability to navigate their people through the coming decade’s instability and discontinuity will be a top priority and prove more difficult due to how quickly changes are happening. This will challenge leaders to adopt new ways of thinking to succeed.

In the decades preceding the pandemic, organizations generally dictated the terms around work. There was a fundamental shift during the pandemic where workers started demanding more say. In the future,
workers will still want flexibility on when and where they work, along with personalized employment models and career paths. This could look like a hybrid workplace model or even a four-day workweek. One of the top reasons people leave their job is a lack of opportunities for advancement. When leaders don’t address this issue, they will likely lose out on talent now and into the future.

Generative AI has the potential to cause seismic shifts in the workplace, particularly for knowledge workers. It is also poised to create a more profound relationship between humans and technology, even more than smartphones and the internet. There is a possibility of workforce displacement, but the more likely scenario is that this technology would primarily augment human performance. AI could help us prepare for presentations, understand our customers better, promote diversity and inclusion, and drive innovation across an organization.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Deloitte’s 2023 Human Capital Trends report shares helpful insights for organizations looking to prepare for the future, including:

  • Framing and approaching challenges like a researcher: Organizations encouraging workers to experiment with new ways of working can generate new insights and expedite outcomes. Our data shows that 59% of business leaders expect to focus on reimagination in the next 2–4 years, a two-fold increase from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Co-creating the organization-worker relationship: Ownership models and values must shift, with organizations empowering workers to assume greater influence and accountability for business and societal outcomes. Organizations that co-create with their workers stated they were nearly twice as likely to have a highly engaged workforce, twice as likely to be innovative, and more likely than their peers to anticipate and respond to change effectively.
  • Prioritizing human outcomes: Organizations need to rethink their broader role in society and address vital issues such as climate, diversity, and equity by incorporating them into their organizational strategies and measuring their specific outcomes. Over 80% of organizations reported purpose, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), sustainability, and trust as top focus areas.

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

Organizations are increasingly relying on non-traditional workers to fill critical roles. According to some studies, contingent workers comprise 30% of the total labor pool. Over half of the workers we surveyed say they have, or are likely to, switch employment models throughout their careers. These workers want to move between traditional full-time jobs, internal opportunities outside formal jobs, and freelancing or gig work. But non-traditional workers typically don’t have access to development opportunities and are not consistently recognized for their contributions to the business. The disconnect between workers and organizations is twofold: leaders don’t feel prepared to address the issue, and most organizations treat non-traditional workers as outsiders.

Organizations should consider their workforce an all-inclusive ecosystem where different types of workers have different needs and make valuable contributions in different ways. Effectively managing the ecosystem could help improve agility, productivity, and performance while expanding access to talent. This requires workforce strategies, processes, systems, and programs that maximize the unique contributions of different worker types while supporting them all more consistently.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together called “Working from Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

The idea of a workplace as a physical location has been under stress for some time. Now, many workers consider the ability to work remotely an inalienable right. Nearly two-thirds of the workers we surveyed say they have or would consider looking for a new job if their employer wanted them back in the office full-time. The first question organizations should ask themselves is: what does the work require? Because at the end of the day, the work should drive workplace decisions.

Organizations may redesign their workplace ecosystem to transition between physical, digital, and hybrid workplaces seamlessly. They could also take an agile approach to improve the workplace experience by continuously assessing the use of new technologies. Several organizations we highlighted in the Trends report are experimenting with incorporating the metaverse and changing how they think about the digital workplace. This could provide new tools to foster collaboration and create an immersive workplace experience from anywhere in the world.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Traditionally, metrics such as revenue, costs, and market share have been an organization’s measure of success. But in a boundaryless world, organizations need to broaden that definition. Every choice that your organization makes has consequences. No individual or organization can escape the impact of each other’s actions and decisions, whether environmental, social, technological, political, or economic.

Many organizations have begun investing in human sustainability or creating value for current and future workers and, more broadly, human beings and society. These organizations unleash individuals’ potential and help them become healthier, more skilled, and more connected to a sense of purpose and belonging. In a global survey conducted by Deloitte in 2022, 64% of workers stated they would be more attracted to and remain at an organization that creates value for shareholders and workers as human beings and the greater society. To thrive, leaders must put humans at the center of everything they do — designing for meaningful outcomes that benefit both the organization and the humans it touches.

Our collective mental health and well-being are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and well-being?

Our research on the C-suite’s role in well-being found that most executives agree that they should have a role in supporting their workers’ ability to thrive physically, mentally, and financially. Some organizations are moving in the right direction by requiring workers to take time off at certain times of the year and breaks during the day. A few are even offering an additional stipend if workers take time off and banning after-hours emailing.

Despite seeing it as a top priority, only a few organizations have tried to address the cultural issues affecting well-being when it comes to working. Most executives admit they’re not doing enough. Organizations should weave well-being throughout their talent and human capital strategies to attract and retain workers and help them lead more fulfilling lives in and outside work.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation.’ ‘The Great Reconfiguration.’ And now the ‘Great Reevaluation.’ What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

All these headlines point to the same emerging trend –worker empowerment and autonomy. Ultimately, workers want meaningful choices, including having a say in how, when, and where they work. Organizations should come together with their workers to co-create the new rules of their working relationships and determine how work will be done. Most importantly, organizations need to make a real commitment to incorporating workers’ perspectives into business practices when possible. Co-creation must be viewed as an opportunity for leaders to tap into workers’ full knowledge and experience, resulting in better solutions.

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends to Track in the Future of Work?”

  • Humans and Technology: Our Trends report discusses how technology can help us improve human capabilities, like practicing emotional intelligence and fostering creativity and teaming. Leaders should harness technologies that help their people and teams become the best possible versions of themselves. AI-based technologies can nudge workers to learn new behaviors, correct old behaviors, and sharpen skills.
  • The End of Jobs: Organizations are experimenting with using skills, not jobs, as the baseline for workforce decisions and are tapping into an expanded workforce ecosystem to meet accelerating business needs. The US Army Civilian workforce is moving toward a skills-based focus to meet changing mission needs and increase flexibility. It will also help employees own their careers and stay longer within the Army.
  • Worker data: Organizations will expand the worker data they collect — behaviors, communications, social connections, and even keystrokes and mouse clicks. The question of who controls that data and how it gets used is starting to emerge. The key to success is finding ways to use worker data, which benefits organizations and workers alike, even as regulations evolve and we see its rise as a new “currency.” A large telecommunications company has allowed its workers to edit their data through an internal site that matches talent to work by storing career and skills data. Workers can manage their data and correct errors in the system.
  • More equitable outcomes: Diversity as a metric or a box to check should change and be replaced with outcomes. Those outcomes will focus on how organizations access, enable and promote talent at all levels of the organization. Organizations engaging with purpose, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), sustainability, and trust in a meaningful way are poised to see a more engaged workforce. Deloitte publishes an annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Transparency Report, which tracks our goals to increase representation across our workforce.
  • Enhanced workforce risk management: Organizations could face increasing risks with the potential to disrupt their financial performance, reputation, and compliance with regulations. Leading organizations are taking a sophisticated, data-driven approach to these workforce risks with board and C-suite oversight to tackle challenges such as automation, government regulation, and reskilling their workers. A global insurance provider places responsibility for ESG risks with the board and meets with executives regularly to review data to evaluate climate risks.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” It reminds me to focus on doing the small things well, not just the big things that have greater visibility.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Kraig’s LinkedIn
Deloitte Human Capital Twitter
Deloitte Consulting on LinkedIn

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!