Economic optimism creates opportunity for employee-focused future

Focusing on your employees will lead to growth in the long run. Photo by iStock.

Summer is almost here and, with the change of seasons, a new wind is bringing optimism and enthusiasm for economic recovery amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Over the past year and a half, the pandemic has offered us a unique glimpse into our organizations and time to reconsider what are the most invaluable components of a company. As the health crisis rounds a corner and vaccine rollouts accelerate, the time to consider a rebound strategy has come. 

“It’s arguable that bounce back was inevitable, especially with vaccine rollout and markets reopening,” says Jim McGuigan, managing partner at PwC Canada. “There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, as well as more optimism about the economy and growth prospects for organizations in B.C., Canada and globally.”

According to PwC’s 24th annual CEO survey, 72% of Canadian CEOs are expecting global economic growth to improve, and 36% expect their organization’s revenues to increase over the next 12 months. Interestingly, B.C. CEOs seem to be more optimistic than the rest of the country as 47% of top executives surveyed in this province are very confident their organization’s revenues will grow over the next 12 months.

“It’s time for organizations to reassess their strategies and focus their attention on differentiating their capabilities to reshape their businesses for growth,” says McGuigan.

One way to do that, according to McGuigan, is to take the lessons learned from the pandemic and invest in people. In fact, Canadian CEOs are more likely to focus on workplace culture and well-being than executives globally. In B.C., 81% of CEOs plan to increase long-term investments in leadership and talent development over the next three years.

Building on the success of efforts to focus on its people and applying lessons from the pandemic, PwC Canada is sharing what worked well with others in the hopes that it will spark conversation and innovation     . 

“As a purpose-led and values-driven organization, we remained true to our core values throughout the pandemic. We continue to keep the health, safety and well-being of our people, clients and community our top priority and forefront of our business decisions,” says McGuigan. “PwC’s commitment to well-being is a key component to our people strategy, with the goal of helping everyone perform their best at work, at home and everywhere in between.”

In order to build on this commitment, PwC Canada increased firm transparency and communication during the period of remote working. Additionally, PwC conducted in-depth employee surveys to better understand how to help its people during the pandemic and give them a voice into how they collaborate, connect and do their work in the future.

“Another focus we continued, even during the pandemic, was our continued commitment and investment in upskilling our people’s digital skills. We introduced cutting-edge tools - and made it easier for everyone to collaborate on new and innovative solutions. We also continued building and sharing digital assets built by employees themselves. Easy access to these digital assets help us eliminate hours from engagements and reduce administrative burden to help make us a more efficient, effective and tech-enabled firm,” says McGuigan. 

In surveying workers around the world, PwC found employee expectations have changed and Canadian CEOs will need to take note. According to PwC’s Hopes and Fears 2021 report, 75% of respondents want to work for a company that will make a positive contribution to society. What’s more, employees don’t want to go back to traditional workplace models: 72% of respondents prefer a mixture of in-person and remote working. Workers are also ready to expand their horizons, with 77% of respondents saying they’re ready to learn new skills or completely retrain.

Employees are ready to break away from what has been standard for decades. The pandemic brought about massive change, and now that people have seen the opportunity to reshape the world of work, they want to build on the momentum.

So, what can Canadian CEOs do to ensure success in this new environment? PwC suggests CEOs focus on three key areas:

1. Revisit your workforce strategy

Design a modern workplace that puts employee experience at its core in order to put the organization on the path to a healthier and more engaged workforce. 

2. Build a culture that supports lifelong learning

Use culture as a bedrock of your upskilling efforts and promote behaviours that support continuous learning to build an agile and resilient workforce.

3. Invest in employee experience and measure results

Make it easy for your employees to get work done by creating a frictionless workplace. Multiple systems, lack of tools and excessively complex processes take time and energy away from your employees. Create an experience that allows them to bring their best self to work and see the results in improved productivity, culture and well-being.

By following these steps, Canadian CEOs can create a future focused on sustaining long-term growth beyond the post-COVID-19 bounce. 

“The challenges we all faced during the pandemic were immense and there was no rule or playbook to help us navigate,” says McGuigan. 

“But we know a focus on well-being enables us to be the best version of ourselves, which has a positive impact on not only individuals but our families, communities, clients and teams. We believe this is the best way to create healthy, forward-thinking organizations that continually thrive.”

Learn more about this topic and the other priorities Canadian and B.C. CEOs will be focusing on to sustain growth beyond the bounce. Also, tune into our BIV CEO podcast where three well-known B.C. CEOs discuss the key themes from the 24th annual CEO survey.