As leaders design new ways of working to meet their workforce needs today and, in the future, flexibility is paramount. But there is no one-size-fits-all model.


Laura Newinski
Deputy Chair and COO
KPMG U.S.

U.S. CEOs identified their employee value proposition as the top operational priority to achieve their growth objectives. Seventy-nine percent also said the accelerated pace of digital transformation through the pandemic will not be sustainable without first addressing burnout among their workforces.

“In today’s intense competition for talent, a strong employee value proposition is essential to achieving organizational growth objectives,” says Laura Newinski, Deputy Chair and COO, KPMG U.S. “Employers must take a close look at the total experience they offer their people—financially, mentally, socially and physically—and identify how best to support the development and well-being of their employees, while balancing client and team needs.”

U.S. CEOs believe that focusing on employees’ mental health and well-being is critical to ensuring employees are engaged, motivated and productive. 

Avanade, an IT consulting firm, created a sweeping employee value proposition for its current and prospective employees to highlight its people-first focus. During the pandemic, the company started “Well-Being Weeks” that reinforced specific mental health themes and encouraged people to connect with their colleagues virtually over digital happy hours and gatherings. To demonstrate gratitude for the work they’d done in the past year, Avanade also announced a one-time bonus equal to one week’s pay for all employees.

Avanade has also created a new solution for helping its customers create a more collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit within their workforces. “The reality for our clients—and for all of us, really—is that what worked before won’t necessarily take us where we need to go in the future. We’re responding by packaging innovation as more of a service that we can offer to our clients,” says Pamela Maynard, CEO of Avanade. “This is just one example of a bigger ask we’re increasingly getting from our clients: Help us strengthen our innovative culture and build the kind of innovative thinking that we need to be successful in the future.”

Eighty-two percent of U.S. CEOs said the pandemic has shifted their focus toward the social component of their ESG programs. Ally Financial’s Brown considers the past 18 months brutally tough in terms of the continued racism in society. “We have used these tough times as examples to try to bridge our gaps,” he says. “I’ve tried to create and support an environment that’s deeply focused on diversity and equity, but especially inclusion.”

Flexibility and a hybrid workplace have emerged as issues that CEOs are zeroing in on to ensure employee well-being. Fifty-nine percent of CEOs said they will be looking at shared office spaces to allow employees to work more flexibly, and 53% will be looking to hire talent that works predominantly remotely. About one-third (35%) will have a majority of employees working remotely at least two or more days a week, and one-quarter (26%) already have or will downsize their organization’s physical footprint.

KPMG’s Newinski points out that responding to this desire for flexibility is nonnegotiable for organizations moving forward. “As leaders design new ways of working to meet their workforce needs today and, in the future, flexibility is paramount. But there is no one-size-fits-all model,” she says.

“Seeking the advice of trusted advisors, listening to employees, using the expertise of your teams and adjusting along the way will be important to creating an optimal experience,” adds Newinski. “Ensuring a successful outcome includes thinking beyond where teams work and focusing more on how teams work together—enabling purposeful, intentional interactions to help people succeed, learn and develop their careers.”

RE/MAX’s Contos agrees that flexibility is about much more than a workspace. There’s also flexibility around the culture in your organization. Having a 9-to-5-type culture is impossible for global companies operating across multiple time zones. “We found that a flexible work environment allows you to tap into different communities and the amazing talent perspectives they offer,” he says.

Avanade’s Maynard says that while her company is not aggressively investing in new physical office space, it’s not rushing to reduce its real estate footprint either. “Before we make any decisions either way, I think we need to see how the hybrid model shakes out in our organization and for our clients,” she says.  

Lear’s Scott is also of the opinion that the future of work is very much a work in progress. Depending on their life and work situations, employees’ preferences about how and where they want to work will differ. To strike the right balance between the needs of the company and its employees, Lear, which has some 170,000 employees in 38 countries, has leveraged the input from its employee resource groups and employees from all regions. Scott, who believes that collaboration and innovation thrive when people are working together, has so far settled on a pilot hybrid workweek that includes a minimum of 24 hours a week of in-person collaboration.

But he acknowledges that it is not yet a done deal. “I don’t think you can make a decision today on what the workplace looks like long term,” he says. “We need to listen, remain open to ideas and be flexible in our approach.”