The business world of tomorrow.... companies seeking a new meaning  

Swiss Risk & Care organised a webinar at the end of June in partnership with the CCIG on how the health crisis is affecting companies and employees. It brought together three speakers, all experts in HR issues: Myriam El Khomri, Director of the HR Consulting Division of SIACI SAINT HONORE, former Minister of Labour of the French Government, Claudia Noth, Director of Human Resources of the EPFL and Philippe Lamb, lecturer and researcher at the University of Neuchâtel. How does the business world evolve? Here are their thoughts:

Changes in work relationships

The health crisis has made workers feel a strong need for meaning. It is a long-standing observation and a consequence of the instability that the business world has been experiencing for several years. As Myriam El Khomri points out, “a young person entering the labour market in 2021 will change employers, jobs and status 10 times on average. And a child will grow up to have a job that does not even exist today”. She added: “People find it difficult to look into the future. Therefore, the question of meaning is of paramount importance. It was rekindled during this crisis with the creation of a hierarchy of jobs, between those considered essential and those classified as non-essential”. All the speakers emphasised the need for management to evolve towards a more participatory practice that is based on trust. “A real challenge for companies, and in particular SMEs, according to Philippe Lamb, which, depending on the professional sector, conceals a great disparity in approach”. “This period of widespread remote working has forced us to move from a mode of control to a mode of trust on the one hand, and from control of presence to control of deliverables on the other hand”, says Claudia Noth. For some employees, this change has led them to become too involved in their work, at the risk of putting themselves in pain. “Measuring workloads remotely is not easy. Some people even put themselves under pressure”, says Claudia Noth. Middle management played a key role during this period. While studies carried out before the advent of Covid showed that absenteeism was on the rise and that there was a feeling that there was no more room for manoeuvre, and recent analyses show that middle management has found itself enhanced by the role of support and facilitator that it has assumed during this crisis, despite the excessive workloads.

Changes in work organisation

Companies are places for socialisation. With remote working, recreating a team is becoming a major challenge. “We need to invent common listening spaces, find key moments to meet, exchange experiences with those who have been on the front line and those who have worked from home”, explains Myriam El Khomri. “Jobs have been split up into smaller ones and recreating cohesion in companies is crucial”, she continues. And Claudia Noth adds: “We can organise reflection meetings on unifying projects, for example, during in-person sessions”. Current surveys of Swiss companies show that work organisation is undergoing a hybridisation process that combines on-site and remote working. According to Myriam El Khomri, “we face several challenges: what is the right balance between on-site and remote working? How can we support this work hybridisation? What will be the impact on the management culture and how can it be changed? How should working time and daily rest be organised in this new context?”

Changes in skills and marketability

This crisis has brought to light a problem of employment opportunities for some employees and raised the issue of career change. According to Myriam El Khomri, “the training received by employees throughout their working lives is the key issue. Companies have a duty to ensure that their employees are employable”. “It is a co-responsibility between the employer and the employee”, says Claudia Noth, adding: “With the development of flexible work, this crisis has unveiled skills that were not thought possible, especially in terms of self-leadership”. Myriam El Khomri concludes: “Now is the time to facilitate career changes. The sectors that are in demand and those that are experiencing difficulties need to be mapped in order to build bridges between companies and thus increase employees' marketability”.

The business world of tomorrow...

According to Philippe Lamb, the business world will become even more interconnected and people will work more in networks. Claudia Noth insists on the shift from a logic of performance to a logic of contribution where well-being at work takes centre stage. Finally, and according to Myriam El Khomri, the business world of tomorrow will no longer be the world of yesterday... reminding us that, at a time when health and life have been given top priority, the human dimension still remains the most important challenge for companies.
 “The crisis has given rise to renewed trust within companies and has acted as a trend accelerator. The demand for more horizontal orientation and participation in a collective project has been accentuated. Digital transformation is bringing about a cultural change and new risks. The main focus was on remote working and P&Ms, but it should be remembered that remote working affected a minority of employees. The crisis is a risk for jobs dominated by women and low-skilled workers. Today, investing in training and career change is therefore of paramount importance”.

Myriam El Khomri

The challenges of economic recovery

Main findings of the survey carried out in July 2020 among 211 companies in French-speaking Switzerland by the HR Bench Institute and the University of Neuchâtel - Summary by Philippe Lamb

Labour market situation

Threat to employment

•    66.4% do not foresee any reduction in the workforce.

•    5.7% of companies surveyed expect to lay off more than 10% of their employees


•    32.2% of companies have “frozen” the recruitment of new employees

•    Only 3.3% of companies plan to recruit more than 10% of their workforce in 2020


•    3.1% in May 2021, compared to 3.4% in May 2020 and 2.3% in May 2019.

•    As a reminder, 5.1% (!) was observed in Q1 2010.


The future of remote working

87% of companies plan to make remote working a success. The first difficulty raised during the implementation of remote working is that of the loss of the social link between employees, long before the technical question came up. Conversely, only one in five companies mentioned the risk associated with the relationship of trust with employees working from home.

The crisis as an accelerator for the digitisation of companies

Resilience and agility are the two strengths that have emerged from this crisis. Both employees and employers have been able to adapt and withstand the ordeal (reduced working hours (RWHs have undoubtedly contributed to this situation). Most of them report a rising climate of trust.

Conversely, digital culture and organisational structure to move towards more empowerment and self-reliance are the main areas for improvement or development. Top management is willing to consult employees more regularly in the future (64%).

The main challenges

They are both managerial and cultural. The purpose is to move towards a more participative management model, which involves clarifying the vision, mission and values of the organisation, as well as to train employees in interpersonal and managerial skills. A change in organisational culture is also needed to adapt to digitisation.

Creativity, the managerial skill of the future

Technical or technological innovation was already a key value for the company. With this crisis, social innovation has become a cardinal virtue.
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