Defining “non-negotiable” in the new combined era of work

As businesses seek to move forward in a rapidly changing world, it seems everything is in flow. “It’s a new era, one that focuses on new and integrated ways of working,” Recent PwC Workplace Pulse Survey reported. People are “all over the map” about where they want to work — at home, at the office, or any combination of the two. At the same time, companies large and small are grappling with decisions about what makes the most sense for their businesses and people.

In industries where remote and hybrid work is possible, flexibility is essential to attract and retain good employees, especially in the context of low unemployment rate. “We are both seeing the fiercest job market of our lives and employees making demands on how they want to work, where they want to work.” Professor Tsedal Neeley of Harvard Business School said this early year. “So they hold power today.”

Now is an opportunity for businesses to develop new arrangements: help employees find the work experience they seek and align new operating methods with a new people strategy. Like Denise Hamilton noted in strategy+business, instead of a “great resignation,” there could be a “great renegotiation.” Of course, the need to negotiate new ways of doing things does not negate any absolute necessity for business success. In consulting with companies, we find it important to determine which aspects of work experience are “non-negotiable”. (In this context, we use no negotiation That is, the elements must be strong in the organization. The flexibility of the combined work is beneficial, but it must not compromise these factors.)

While bargaining can vary slightly from organization to organization, many of them apply to most businesses. We find it helpful to divide them into four main categories.


The largest category is non-negotiable for individuals. There is no priority for organizations than recruiting and retaining highly skilled workers. But in the hybrid era, organizations face something more difficult. 22. “If businesses insist on asking people to go back to the office, they risk losing talent.” PwC US Governance Insights Center noted. But at the same time, “if they leave employees at home, they may struggle with maintaining an established culture in place.” And, as PwC Global Culture 2021 Surveys show that cultural cohesion is important to ensure employees feel connected to the workplace.

Businesses that are willing to have top, diverse employees as part of their team, no matter where those employees live (or need to live for personal reasons), benefit. Businesses also have to make sure their top picks agree to a job offer — and stay with the company years later. This means closely monitoring the experiences of potential customers, new hires and existing employees; find out why the potential employee turned down the job and why the current employee left; and continuously work to improve both recruitment and retention.

It also requires close support for each employee’s development through mentoring and skills development. In a 2019 article on training and development, the University of Massachusetts Global cites a survey in which “60% of respondents said they would choose a job with strong professional development opportunities over a job with regular pay raises.” And next year, in Harvard Business Review, Margaret Rogers, vice president of consulting firm Pariveda Solutions, so-called more effective development programs “The most obvious solution to improve employee retention.”


The connection between colleagues is very important to build team spirit, collaboration and spirit — and increasingly, productivity. These connections are also available get a hit during the pandemic, according to a study by Microsoft. And in 2021 PwC . pulse survey, marketing executives say their primary concern is the potential loss of innovation stemming from a drop in team spirit. Analysis of the survey concludes that technology, including “tools that enable long-distance collaboration — as well as tools that get the right data to the right people at the right time,” can help reduce damage. Relationships and interactions can also be improved through the use of cross-functional teams and degree training.

Connections among colleagues are critical to building teamwork, collaboration, and morale — and increasingly productivity.

Skills development is another function that takes place at the team level. So in the hybrid age, it’s also important to avoid missing those opportunities. As Degreed’s Director of Learning and Talent, Kelly Palmer Wrote for the World Economic ForumIt would be helpful to use the time of mixed workers in the office on “collaborative projects where their new skills can be worked on”, while “completely remote companies” can organize virtual collaborative activities”.

Prioritizing development at both the individual and team levels is also non-negotiable because of the challenges facing the organization by the skills gap. “Half of employees worldwide will need to be rehired by 2025 — and that number doesn’t include everyone who is currently out of work,” said PwC Global President Robert E. Moritz and Chief Operating Officer World Economic Forum executive Saadia Zahidi writes in 2021 report Upgrading skills for common prosperity.


Other negotiations involve how your business connects with existing and potential customers. If customers feel ignored or underserved, they will take their business elsewhere. In the current labor market turmoil, this has become a growing problem. CMOs report that current staff shortages are having a negative impact on customer experience, with 40% cite it as a major problem.

As organizations experiment with hybrid capabilities, they need to ensure that employees are still having authentic, relevant interactions with prospects and new customers, and nurturing relationships. existing customer base. For example, a business may need employees to travel to the office or to a customer’s location for events that celebrate customer milestones. Depending on what the client likes, this could be an example of a time when a “zoom party” won’t cut it.


Finally, it is important to consider the implications of the hybrid work model for the broader community. More than ever, all stakeholders in a business – including employees, customers, investors and those living in the same city as the business’s facilities – are looking for companies to work with. carry out major social and environmental issues. They want to see organizations engaged in the community.

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer found that “all stakeholders have business responsibilities.” Personal beliefs and values ​​now help determine which brands 58% of customers buy or support, which companies 60% of employees choose to work at, and which businesses 80% of investors choose to put their money in . Having a prominent, active voice in addressing the greatest challenges of our time has become a business imperative.

So, as organizations experiment with hybrid work options, it is important that they also examine their impact on the community and demonstrate a strong commitment to helping lead the way in creating positive change. Through employee surveys and other workforce participation indicators, as well as regular checks on managers and their reports, executives can keep a close eye on all these factors and make sure the organization is making progress on them.

As businesses seek to weather these times of profound change, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The needs of all the different groups we’ve discussed must be balanced — and those needs will continue to change, too. However, as long as your business knows what non-negotiables are, you’ll know which factors to watch closely. And you will be in a strong position to chart a new path ahead.

Author profile:

  • Earl Simpkins advising clients on strategy and transformation for PwC’s strategy &, strategic consulting business. Based in Dallas, he is the principal of PwC US.
  • Brandon Rapp advising clients on corporate and corporate strategy for Strategy &. Based in Dallas, he is the manager of PwC US.
  • Varun Bhatnagar advising clients on culture and organization for Strategy &. Based in Dallas, he is the manager of PwC US.

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