Reshaping the workplace

Reshaping the workplace—three New Year’s resolutions for employers

Bart Van den Bussche, Director, People and Organization, PwC
Based on PwC’s 2020 Workforce Preference study

At PwC, we don’t only make resolutions in January – we’re always looking ahead! That’s why in 2020 we conducted a study to gain insight into the preferences of the next generation of employees. The start of the year is a perfect time to take stock of what we’ve learned and help employers to reshape their workplace.

Why does this matter? The recent healthcare emergency fundamentally changed social values, how companies operate and the way we work. This has resulted in a ‘new normal’, which has generated new expectations on the part of tomorrow’s employees. Focusing on Generations Y and Z, employers can start changing their processes and making their employee value proposition attractive to future employees in a proactive, rather than a reactive, way.

Based on the results of our study, we have put together the following New Year’s resolutions to help employers adapt to the new normal and prepare for the road ahead.

#1 Provide Generations Y and Z with interesting and challenging work

In terms of preferences, the single most important driver for job commitment is the job itself. This suggests that employees are motivated by real challenges.

Have you been talking about how remote working can attract a wider international talent pool? Well, tomorrow’s workforce also recognizes the international pool of interesting job opportunities and is willing to move to access them. The results of the study show that the opportunity to work on a challenging job is the number one driver for employee mobility at both national and international level. That’s why now is the time to think about making your jobs more interesting.

Have you considered the possibility of a hybrid workforce, where certain tasks are automated but the roles themselves still require human workers? A system like this would mean that many jobs still exist, but in a different, more attractive shape.

#2 Create more flexibility around how and when work is performed

Access to a flexible work schedule emerged as the second most important element for job preferences in the overall study sample. This shows that non-financial factors play an important role in incentivizing the workforce of the future.

The study was launched before the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, but continued during and after it. We noticed that the participants’ interest in flexible hours and schedules increased post lockdown, overtaking interesting and challenging work as the number one influence on preferences.

Employers could consider boosting motivation and making roles more attractive by implementing new approaches to working. What about using office hubs and function-based facilities like community centers? Or even remote-first working conditions, instead of traditional offices.

#3 Offer business and technical skills training

Despite the obvious lure of money in terms of base pay, salary only ranked as the third most important factor in terms of job preference. We noticed that, during the lockdown, base pay dropped to fifth place. On average, the third most important influencer in terms of employment preference was the availability of business and technical skills training. This factor increased in importance during the lockdown.

Moving with the times is all about aligning the right capabilities with the right skillsets, in the right place at the right time. In order to remain attractive, employers will need to provide retraining programs and systems for closing the skills gaps of their employees.


In these challenging times, the future may seem more uncertain than ever. Providing data-driven guidance and insights helps to clear the fog and support employers in creating the best possible workplace now and into the future.

Our study mainly focused on the workplace preferences of Generations Y and Z, as these are the people now entering the labor market with new mindsets and different expectations. However, the results are also useful for gaining an understanding of other generations’ current expectations. This allows companies to optimize their total reward offerings by putting people first.

Do you know what the most talented workers are looking for?

About the author

Bart Van den Bussche, Director, People and Organization, PwC

Bart is a Director within the People and Organization practice of PwC in Belgium, with a focus on reward & individual income taxation. He joined PwC in 2005 and advises clients in the broader field of reward from strategy through design to implementation. Bart works on a variety of remuneration design and review projects, including flexible reward projects. Bart also leads the Belgian services offering in the field of Equal-Salary Certification. He’s conducted several Belgian studies providing insights on how financial and non-financial rewards affect employee motivation and retention.