COVID-19 was the rude awakening that governing workforce strategies through retrospective metrics and measurements severely limits an organization’s ability to survive disruption, let alone thrive in it. The urgent need for organizations to better understand their workforce is driven by the pandemic’s unprecedented, once-in-a-lifetime health, economic, and social challenges. It is also raising critical health issues around employee well-being and safety, as well as remote work and alternate workforce arrangements.

Of the respondents to our 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, 97% stated they need additional information on some aspect of their workforce. And, only 11% of organizations said they could produce information on their workforce in real-time — a statistic that was staggering even before organizations were forced to make a series of immediate pandemic-driven decisions about their workforce.

In our 2020 special report, Returning to work in the future of work: Embracing purpose, potential, perspective, and possibility during COVID-19, we explained how the pandemic has highlighted and accelerated “the need for and ease of access to insightful and future-oriented workforce data.”[1] We encouraged organizations to ask different questions and measure and report their answers in real-time to highlight important workforce issues, have discussions about them, and move to action.

These forward-looking insights — rather than backward-looking and stale data — can help organizations grasp how to achieve new outcomes by harnessing workforce potential and transforming work. For example, knowing workers’ immediate concerns and preferences can be invaluable to bringing them safely back to work during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

To effectively deal with multiple possible futures and unlikely events, organizations must be able to quickly pivot and set new directions. This depends, in large part, on the ability to access and act on real-time workforce insights. The new element here is the use of workforce strategies to plan for uncertainty. A more dynamic, action-oriented approach to understanding the workforce can help leaders make better and faster decisions, which are based on up-to-the-minute information of their workforce’s capabilities.


In 2020, organizations experienced an unprecedented need to redeploy skills and rethink work outputs as they struggled to deal with the pandemic and its economic fallout. COVID-19 compelled workers and leaders to consider how to apply their workforce in new ways to address new needs. Employers called on workers to extend their remit to all necessary tasks, whether or not these tasks fell within their pre-existing roles.

Along the way, organizations learned that their definitions of what work needs to be done, who needs to do it, and how to motivate people to achieve their greatest potential, can be much more fluid than they had previously believed.


Of the executives that responded to the 2021 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, 60% said leadership was important to prepare for unknown futures. And while leadership has historically been about setting direction and ensuring compliance, it is now shifting to preparing for the unpredictable by coaching, teaming, and fostering workers’ abilities to learn and adapt. The more precisely an organization knows where to find the capabilities to do what is needed, and the better able it is to access those capabilities, the more effectively it can deploy and redeploy people to plug operational gaps.

In fact, getting the most value out of a talent ecosystem requires organizations to view the concept of retention differently. It is less about tracking how many people leave as it is about understanding who is leaving and why. Unlike simple retention rate metrics, this understanding can shed light on whether these patterns are desirable or undesirable and inform strategies to make appropriate adjustments.

Doing so will improve organizations’ ability to meet evolving talent needs, build flexibility and resilience, and drive new and better workforce management, and results in a world of perpetual disruption.


If you would like more information on Governing workforce strategies—Setting new directions for work and the workforce, please contact the Deloitte Banking and Human Capital Leader, Pascal Martino (


And if you would like to view the full 2021 Human Capital Trends report, please download it here:

Look for our next article “A memo to HR: Accelerating the shift to re-architecting work” to learn how COVID-19 thrust HR to the forefront of organizations’ efforts to survive the crisis and gained greater credibility in doing so.


Article by Deloitte Luxembourg

[1] Erica Volini et al., Returning to work in the future of work: Embracing purpose, potential, perspective, and possibility during COVID-19, Deloitte Insights, 15 May 2020.

Publié le 01 mars 2021