What are 'good work' goals and why should organisations care? 

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20 February 2023

Originally published on the World Economic Forum Agenda Blog on January 2, 2023

Talent shortages, labour market tensions, rampant inflation and the resurgence of unionisation across many industry sectors have highlighted a profound shift in the social contract between employers and employees. Mercer's 2023 Global Talent Trends report indicated that 50% of c-suite executives showed that enabling new ways of work would be a critical focus area for 2023 to restore balance to the management-labour compact.

Organisations need to reinvent their proposition and business model, centred on creating a workforce-centric enterprise and what's economically viable, to realise the future of work and remain attractive to employers.

The World Economic Forum's Good Work Framework, published in May 2022, drills into the human capital component of the "S" in ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) and provides a foundation. The framework gives organisations a platform for a balanced baseline offering coupled with more ambitious and futuristic aims.

5 key aims of Good Work Framework

The Good Work Framework has five overarching objectives, each with one primary and three secondary goals. It also contains defined metrics for each goal, which organisations can use to measure themselves in a consistent, standard and industry-agnostic manner.

In addition to the metrics now available on the Forum's website, target-setting guidelines are there to support organisations in defining their commitments to the good work goals they wish to advance. There is also guidance on where, when and how to report efforts.

Good and decent work of the future, which is noted as part of Goal 8 of the UN's sustainable development goals, requires organisations to comply with human rights, such as eliminating forced or child labour, and address issues such as:

  • Workplace flexibility for all.
  • Responsible and ethical deployment of algorithms and new technology.
  • An engrained culture of diversity and inclusion.
  • Well-being.
  • Equitable and sufficient pay for a decent standard of living.
Whilst some of these characteristics of good work seem ambitious, much progress has already been made.

Paving the way

Unilever is a leading example of an organisation that has embraced the future of work as an opportunity, not a risk. It has committed to ensuring that employees in its direct supply chain earn a living wage. It has progressive diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and its U-work programme – which allows contract workers the benefits usually linked to permanent work – challenges traditional employment models.

Unilever is not alone. Standard Chartered's rigorous efforts in identifying its sunset and sunrise skills – respectively, roles in decline and those that need to be grown – and subsequently upskilling or reskilling employees help transition workers to new opportunities.

Agility's fair pay commitments, HSBC's expansive inclusion initiatives, Schneider Electric's efforts towards improving its employees' mental health and overall well-being and so many more initiatives are all tell-tale signs that organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the need to reinvent work to be more equitable, ethical and human.

Further examples illustrate the rapidly changing workplace. Successful four-day workweek pilots, increased demand for remote working and legislation to provide a framework and rights around it and the increasing number of contingent workers are some of the trends indicative of what is changing.

However, innovation in work models must be coupled with well-being and inclusion efforts. Today, just 56% of employees say they offer flexible working for all and 54% have no plans to offer any form of work security to gig workers, according to the GTT pulse study 2023.

The World Economic Forum's Good Work Framework, published in May 2022, drills into the human capital component of the "S" in ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) and provides a foundation. The framework gives organisations a platform for a balanced baseline offering coupled with more ambitious and futuristic aims.

What workers want

So, what do employees want? In Mercer's 2022 Global Talent Trends study, employees rated, after job security, organisational brand or reputation as the second top reason they joined their current employer (a jump from ninth place before the pandemic).

Although an organisation's corporate reputation is the result of many factors, the organisation's reputation as a "good employer" weighs heavily on someone's mind when considering employment, especially regarding their track record on well-being, flexible working, development and inclusiveness.

This insight provides an enormous opportunity for employers to distinguish themselves as a partner instead of just an employer and improve their attractiveness for future employees while simultaneously improving current employees' lives. What constitutes good work and healthy work environments is a changing landscape – Mercer's The Truth About What Employees Want research shows that living wage is a topic most employees want their company to make commitments around and reproductive rights are now a consideration.

Standard metrics

The Good Work Framework delivers standard metrics to measure progress against the Good Work goals and normalisation around target setting and reporting for these goals allows future and current employees to evaluate organisations to make a more informed decision confidently. With the increased cost of living being top of employers' and employees' minds, it is tempting to move one's focus from longer-term, seemingly complex initiatives listed above to balance shorter-term challenges such as affordability and salary increases.

Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna once said that "You cannot overtake 15 cars in sunny weather…but you can when it's raining." The quote speaks to how you can prosper in adverse circumstances and is a compelling reason for those organisations wanting to lead the pack to make solid commitments towards making good work a reality for all.

Kate Bravery

A Senior Partner and Mercer’s Global Advisory Solutions & Insight Leader. She has worked in Asia, Australia, the US, and Europe – helping organisations achieve a talent advantage through their people.

In her current role, she supports Mercer’s thought leadership agenda, knowledge management and colleague sales enablement. She also leads on solution innovations for HR buyers and colleague learning in the Talent, Reward & Transformation practices. She has held office, practice, and market leadership roles at Mercer and prior to her current position she was the Career Global Practices Leader and before that the Growth Markets Regional Practice Leader for Talent Strategy and Organisational Performance.

Kate is the author of Mercer’s annual Global Talent Trends study and speaks regularly on the future of work. She is currently partnering with the World Economic Forum under their Good Work Alliance project to define Good Work standards and metrics. She is a non-executive director of Digital Frontiers.

Dirk Joubert

Career Consultant

Ravin Jesuthasan

Global Transformation Services Leader

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