Understanding Your Workforce in the Age of Agency

The power of who has the say is tipping in favor of employees. With remote work and flexible schedules more appealing than ever to their workforce and recruiting the right people with the right skills becoming more tough, employers are left no longer holding the upper hand. So, what does this mean for the future of work? How far can employees go in their demands for different working conditions? And will employers ever get back the control they had before?

During our sixth edition, we welcomed Jared Spataro, the Corporate Vice President of Modern Work at Microsoft on stage at VivaTech to lay out his thoughts on where the future of work is heading. Halfway through the session, he was then joined on stage by Dr. Michael Gervais, a high-performance psychologist, and Anne Helen Petersen, an author and public speaker, for a short panel discussion.

The Age of Agency
It’s evident that the workforce has changed its opinion on how we should be working, but to understand how much, Microsoft completed a survey of 31,000 people from 31 different countries titled “Great Expectations: A Road Map For Making Hybrid Work Work”. The results showed that now more than ever, people are prioritizing their family, health, and freetime over their careers. Spataro shared some key numbers with us.

53% of employees are prioritizing health and wellbeing over their job and 47% would prioritize their personal life and family over their careers.
18% of the global workforce changed employers last year. But the number one reason wasn’t pay, it was health and wellbeing – specifically work-life balance.
46% of the global workforce is now made up of millennials and Gen Z and 70% of them have a side hustle – typically something they are passionate about.
“What these results show is that employees are looking for a ‘new deal’ when it comes to employment,” Spataro noted. “People might think that the future of work is about where we are working and new work patterns. That is true superficially. But what is actually happening here is we are negotiating a new deal between the individual and the organization.”

So, what is the new deal? The CVP described it as Agency. Which is a fancy way of saying that workers want more control over how, when and where they work – they’ve been able to assert that control during the pandemic and now want to keep it.

“The idea of agency comes from Hollywood and the dissolution of the Studio system in the 1950’s,” Petersen explained further. “Agents would work for agencies on behalf of individuals and give them the ability to advocate for themselves and create a new deal with the work that they did. So the word Agency, in the way that we are using it, means autonomy.”

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