Keeping Pace with the Progressives

New Talent Dynamics driving 4x Faster Growth

Grantley Morgan

September 2022

The world of work has fundamentally changed.

Future Work Scenarios 22 (FWS22) provided a valuable opportunity to hear from the ‘Progressives’, a group of companies who, when faced with the challenges, opportunities and risks of the pandemic, rapidly innovated their talent operating models and committed to growing faster and stronger with their workers.

The Progressives now enjoy a growth dividend – they are growing at 4x the rate of their peers. FWS22 showed that the Future of Work can provide a framework through which companies can shield their workforces from economic insecurity, skills obsolescence and social injustice. For the Progressives, doing good proved to be good business too.

Fundamental change in how and where we work

Dr Christian Schmeichel opened Future Work Scenarios 22 by declaring: “the future of work is no longer sci-fi”. True enough, employee expectations have permanently shifted:

  • 75% of remote or hybrid knowledge workers state their expectations of flexible working have increased (source: Gartner)
  • Over 60% of surveyed workers are willing to turn down a promotion to protect their mental health and wellbeing (source: Atlassian)
  • 60% of workers hold social leadership as core to business, wanting their CEOs to speak out on societal issues (source: Edelman).

Short-term structural shifts in global labor markets compound changing employee attitudes. Remote work adoption appears irreversible, with recent research by Gartner indicating that the share of remote work by 2025 could be between 30% (Asia Pacific and South America) and 60% (North America).

While talent scarcity fluctuates widely across sectors and skilled vs semi-skilled vs unskilled work, we are seeing that wage inflation is a universal phenomenon, estimated at 5.3% globally (source: Korn Ferry) with significant variations by country, sector and skill cluster. Competing on financial reward alone is likely to erode profitability or leave companies passing price hikes onto customers.

We can expect further aftershocks as the external business environment moves from VUCA to BANI – brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible. Speakers at FWS22 were universal in the need to address rising job insecurity, employee wellbeing and growing skills gaps.

Keeping Pace with the Progressives

Discussions at FWS22 regarding the major issues and necessary responses (beyond financial) can be summarized in 5 questions. Use this framework to scenario plan for multiple futures of work and re-assess those with foresight as the external environment shifts through H2 2022.

Faced with talent uncertainties, Future of Work Progressives do 6 things differently from their peers to accelerate growth by unleashing the potential of their people and teams.

  1. Organise around problem statements
  2. Decentralise teams
  3. Prioritise new skills and (or sometimes over) new technologies
  4. Lead on sustainability
  5. Craft springboards into new work
  6. Experiment with hyperphysical workspaces.

Progressives use a combination of these responses to innovate their talent practices, contributing to business outcomes which yield 4x the growth rate of the FTSE100.

Attendees at FWS22 heard first-hand stories from 4 Progressives leading the way:

To create space for innovative thinking, AstraZeneca focuses on developing ‘humanistic’ leaders who role model agility, team empowerment and psychological safety. Leaders are tasked with building velocity by unbundling work from jobs. The company is also transitioning to agile learning, requiring a mindset shift towards continuous rather than episodic consumption.

To galvanise its people during Covid and deliver the company’s biggest M&A transaction remotely, Coca-Cola communicated an open talent ethos – everyone has talent and will receive opportunities to grow. The purpose of transformation was shared transparently and progress on 30 responsible business initiatives is shared frequently.

To accelerate the transition to net zero and clean energy, E.On based an accompanying workforce transformation on authentic leadership and congruent talent strategies. Social value for workers, supply chains and society at large is central to E.On’s evolution as an energy creator and distributor.

To enhance its ability to reach global talent pools, improve DEIB and diversify skills, SAP rearchitected HR around 8 ‘topic clusters’ – each a global network of HR professionals tasked with deconstructing policies, processes and practices forensically to identify what needs to change.

The Progressives prove that interventionist, optimistic and pro-active talent practices can drive growth, provide economic security to workers and reduce the risk of skills obsolescence. To better understand the unique combinations of talent practices deployed by each of the Progressives, and the next practices that can accelerate growth even further, reach out to us to organise a Future of Work keynote or workshop.

Meet the future of work with optimism

The world of work has fundamentally changed, and we can expect further change as the external business environment shifts from VUCA to BANI. The Progressives are a cluster of companies moving ahead of the market by adopting pro-active talent practices proven to drive growth at 4x their peers. Their results demonstrate that doing good can be good business, and in AstraZeneca’s case, restore social freedoms lost during the Pandemic. That’s a future of work worth being optimistic about!

Form an action plan – our top tips for keeping pace with the Progressives:

With optimism,


September 2022

About Future Work Scenarios

Future Work Scenarios (FWS) is about optimism and opportunity. The annual event brings together people and transformation leaders from the world’s top employers in addition to futurologists and innovative tech companies. FWS provides space to reflect on how technology and changing attitudes are reshaping the world of work. It equips participants with the tools to navigate the evolving landscape and secure the right talent and skills for growth.

‘Keeping Pace with the Progressives’ is also published on the FWS website, here.


Our latest research reveals 6 high impact talent practices that helped AstraZeneca, Coca-Cola and SAP grow 4x faster than the FTSE100 over the past 3 years. Click below to access the blog post.



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