Aon research shows one third of organisations are reshaping workforces in the wake of COVID-19

Aon plc (NYSE: AON), a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions, has released new research that shows 33% of organisations globally are reshaping their workforces since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began. The research also shows that two thirds of organisations have a “future of work” taskforce, yet just one third has defined what the future means for them.

Aon’s sixth Global COVID-19 HR Pulse Survey, conducted in December 2020, garnered respondents from over 1,400 organisations around the world, more than 500 of which are based in Europe.

John McLaughlin, chief commercial officer, Human Capital, EMEA at Aon, said:

“The key takeaway from our latest HR Pulse survey is how the pandemic has served as a catalyst for us all to rethink how we work, where we work and how work should be done. Organisations are largely shifting from a critical, reactive stage to planning their future. By dividing organisations’ response to COVID-19 into a three-stage framework, we can see whether respondents believe they fit into the first category, “React and Respond”, the second category, “Recover” or the third, “Reshape”.

“What is clear from the findings is that organisations that say they have reached the third stage – Reshape – are more likely to focus on the future of work.

“However, the future of work is a big, multi-faceted issue that is hard to tackle, not least because it’s not clear what the term means. Its definition is often rooted in predicting the future, which is onerous – and clearly impossible. Instead, organisations can tackle the future of work by breaking it down into elements, such as optimising investment in a workforce, reducing people-related risk and ensuring a workforce is flexible and resilient enough to be capable of rising to future challenges.”

Aon’s survey showed that just 10% of global organisations felt they were still in the “React and Respond” stage since the pandemic began. These organisations are focusing on crisis management and business continuity. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they are in the “Recover” stage, focusing on updating business goals and adjusting operating plans, while 33% are in the third “Reshape” stage where they are restructuring or pivoting offerings and deploying new talent strategies.

European respondents differed marginally at 8%, 56% and 36%, respectively. These figures represented a slight change from a pulse survey conducted in August 2020, when 27% of organisations said they were in the “Reshape” stage.

The survey showed that organisations that have advanced to reshaping their organisations are focusing on the future:

  • Companies in the third stage report having a better understanding and definition of the future of work. This is the case for 37% of these firms, as opposed to 25% of those in the second, or “Recover”, stage. These firms also have more focus on how their resources are deployed, using data better, maximising agility, bolstering resilience and boosting their Employer Value Proposition.
  • Organisations in both the second and third stages have teams in place to manage the future of work; however, organisations who are in the third stage of “Reshape” are twice as likely to engage external consultants to support them. Respondents in both latter stages have engaged executives, HR, business line managers and technology to manage this initiative internally, while organisations in stage three place a greater emphasis on the role IT plays, possibly believing they are more relevant to implementing the strategy. This also indicates organisations in this latter stage are better equipped to use data and analytics to make informed decisions.
  • Staff communication about the future of work is also more frequent and direct in organisations that are in the “Reshape” stage. This includes more frequent use of surveys (56%) in comparison to stage two (45%). The key focus for firms in both stage two and three are remote/virtual working, flexible schedules, wellbeing and diversity, equity and inclusion. However, organisations in stage three place additional emphasis on agility, future talent and reshaping the workforce.

John McLaughlin added:

“The reality is that the future of work isn’t an esoteric or ephemeral topic. Indeed, the dramatic changes that every organisation has gone through since the pandemic began shows that preparing for future risks is essential.”

To download Aon’s Global COVID-19 HR Pulse Survey, click here. To learn more about how Aon is helping clients build a resilient workforce, one of four core priorities for organisations as they have shifted in response to the pandemic, see its paper, “Helping Clients Navigate an Increasingly Complex World“.