ESG and the workforce of the future

Building a sustainable workforce in a rapidly-changing world

Exceptional events are driving workforce trends

Socio-political unrest, a global pandemic, war in Europe, visible climate change, technological disruption… The past few years have been particularly dramatic – even life changing – for millions of people. It’s made many of us take stock, and ask questions about our lives and our work. It has increased levels of insecurity while also, perhaps paradoxically, increasing workforce expectations and demands.

All of it is having profound repercussions for employers.

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Company leaders are challenged with both managing the critical issues affecting their business from ‘outside’ while simultaneously dealing with changing ‘internal’ workforce demands, expectations and requirements. Issues that were already important – such as diversity and inclusion or upskilling and wellbeing – have gathered momentum, while hitherto relatively insignificant issues – such as hybrid/remote working – have come to the fore. Talent scarcity is an immediate problem.

To ensure their company’s long term sustainability – and to comply with environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulations and wider stakeholder expectations – company leaders and HR functions are striving to understand the issues, find solutions and anticipate changes.

Indeed, ESG is increasingly central to companies’ strategic planning, brand and culture. It creates value, contributes to performance and competitiveness, strengthens stakeholder relationships and mitigates risks. All of this affects the workforce.

Attracting and retaining the right people

Companies need to act on a complex range of issues to start building a stable, sustainable workforce now.

Skills mismatch

Competing for talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas that are evolving faster than workers and job seekers can be trained, while managing people with legacy skills on the payroll whose jobs will be automated.

Talent attraction and retention

The ‘great resignation’ triggered by Covid-19 has further highlighted the need for creating a total rewards, wellbeing and social benefits offer, including customised packages, to stand out among employers and reduce worker turnover.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

 Identifying systemic bias in workplace policies and practices, preventing discrimination and marginalisation, managing whistleblowing and creating an inclusive culture at all organisational levels.

Technology disruption

Developing business strategies around the human impact of technology innovations such as AI, robotics and automation, and mitigating technology risks such as cybersecurity, mental health, job loss/insecurity or misinformation.

Demographic shift

Accounting for issues such as ageing workforces or urban migration, and aligning people with different demographic profiles – and divergent behaviours and expectations – around a shared endeavour.

Regulatory compliance

Ensuring compliance with existing and upcoming legislation — while keeping up with workers’ and other stakeholders’ changing expectations.

Work from anywhere

Assessing impacts and establishing policies linked to: mobility and environmental footprint; talent availability; leadership; wellbeing; diversity, equity and inclusion; and tax, social security and labour law compliance.

Building loyalty

Increasing employee value perception by helping workers feel trusted (e.g. through hybrid/remote work or flexible workhours policies), cared for (wellbeing packages, etc.) and secure in times of social and economic instability.

“Workers’ expectations change faster than legislation. To attract and retain the people who will make your company thrive, you need to recognise and value the work, time and loyalty of every individual.”

Serafine VandebueriePartner, PwC Belgium

Workforce trends in view

The issues listed above are already facing employers today. In addition, there are always new challenges around the corner. PwC has identified 15 trends that are likely to grow in importance:

The economy will grow - with a constrained labour force

Hybrid work will evolve: enter the metaverse

Learning, skills, career pathways will become critical

Coaching will develop Power Skills in everyone

Talent Acquisition & Talent Mobility will converge

Every company will need a talent marketplace platform

Talent intelligence and skills taxonomy will be people strategy cornerstones

The intense focus on employee experience will become mainstream

Diversity will be reframed as “belonging, equity, and inclusion”

Pay & reward will get a serious refresh

Sustainability and global climate change will become HR priorities

Company will need to rearchitect their HR Technology

The people analytics crusade will touch on every aspect of your business

Building HR skills and capabilities will be nonnegotiable

The CHRO role will be integral to organisational success


We’ll work with you to make the right decisions

PwC has a range of services and expertise to support you in analysing your business needs and practices, creating awareness and education, and setting principles and decisions around issues such as:

  • workforce strategy, including reskilling and upskilling 

  • diverse, equal and inclusive leadership

  • culture of diversity, equity and inclusion

  • social justice (human rights, minimum labour rights, social dumping, discrimination)

  • ‘total wellness’ (i.e. wellbeing, work flexibility, health and safety)
  • talent scarcity and talent retention
  • equal pay, closing the gender gap
  • reward strategy, fair pay practices, payroll transformation, Equal-Salary certification and linking pay to ESG goals
  • data security and privacy
  • HR transformation, technology and law.


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Contact us

Serafine Vandebuerie

Serafine Vandebuerie

Partner, People & Transformation, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 499 56 70 93