PricewaterhouseCoopers global report on the future of work to 2020 reveals “millennials” expectations of work and careers

PwC surveyed nearly 3,000 graduates from China, the U.K. and U.S, and leveraged a scenario planning methodology to predict how companies can best manage employees and outsourced talent in the future.

NEW YORK, November 14, 2007 – A new global report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Managing Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Work to 2020,” illustrates how organizations need to adapt to the demands of a rapidly changing world and provides scenarios of future business models to help companies anticipate change and address how they will attract, retain, and motivate the people they will need in the future. PwC surveyed 2,793 graduates from China, the U.K. and U.S. — all of whom had been offered jobs with the member firms of the worldwide organization but had yet to start — to gain insight into the expectations of “millennial” professionals and the resulting implications for the future of people management.

Findings of the survey revealed:

  • Corporate social responsibility behavior is a factor in prospective employee job seeking. Ninety percent of U.S. respondents and 87 percent of Chinese respondents say they will actively seek out employers whose corporate social responsibility behavior reflects their own; the U.K. respondents lagged slightly behind at 71 percent.
  • Office hours and locations of the future may not change; some 75 percent of respondents overall expect to work regular office hours, with only 5 percent on average expecting to work mainly from home.
  • “Portfolio careers” (working at multiple and varied jobs) may not be the wave of the future, as 78.4 percent of overall respondents believe they will have between two to five employers over the course of their career. Only 5.5 percent of overall respondents expect to have more than ten employers.

“Our U.S. respondents envision a working environment that supports both working in the office and from home,” said Karen Vander Linde, a partner in the Advisory practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Over 79 percent of U.S. respondents say they expect to work at a variety of locations — both in the office and from home. Clearly a flex workplace is important to the future business workforce, so we see extended application of the flex workplace in the future. What will remain somewhat the same, however, is the time our respondents will devote to work and when they will work. Seventy three percent expect to work regular office hours, with some flexibility. What we see as a trend is the focus on flexibility.”

Vander Linde continued, “One major departure from the past is that the respondents do expect to work internationally. Over 90 percent said they expect to work across geographic borders more often than their parents did. The global economy is shaping expectations of the future workforce.”

Adds Steve Rimmer, PwC partner in the Human Resource Services (HRS) practice, “Almost one-third of these US respondents (32 percent) also expect to use a language other than their own in the workplace. Employers seeking to attract and retain these highly capable employees will need to take these types of expectations into account.”

“Scenario Planning” Predicts Talent Management of the Future

PricewaterhouseCoopers used the scenario planning methodology, pioneered by Shell in the 1970s, for the project. The report projects three possible future scenarios for work. In one, business is king and big companies reign supreme; in another, social responsibility is paramount and consumers and employees drive corporate accountability and responsibility; and in the third, localism prevails, and a global network of linked, but separate, small businesses prosper while large companies fail.

The role of people management and human resources is examined in detail in each of these “worlds.” In the “business is king” scenario, competition for the right people is fierce and companies are forced to extreme lengths to get the people they want by providing increasingly sophisticated benefits packages. Through these, employees can be tied-in by “lifestyle dependence” deals where the company picks up part of the tab not only for childcare and pension provision but also transportation, food and even accommodations. In the “social responsibility” scenario, employment law drives responsible corporate behavior. And in the “fragmented, networked” scenario, human resources as a discrete function has become obsolete.

“Our use of ‘scenario planning’ in this study provides a compelling vision of possible future business worlds and can help organizational leaders begin the discussion of how to survive the talent crunch and thrive in years to come,” said Vander Linde. “Companies can use these scenarios to begin developing a strategy for their future, whether they focus on one model or a blend of models. Once they arrive at a deeper understanding of the most likely scenario for their company, they will be better able to attract and retain the talent they need today to create a sustainable business tomorrow.”

Adds Rimmer, “Prospective employees’ changing expectations will have a dramatic impact on business as these young hires move along their career paths. Only those businesses that fully understand the possible scenarios and then start today to build an organization that will best meet their future employees’ needs will be well placed to compete.”

To obtain the full survey report, go to and search for “Managing Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Work to 2020.”

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