Working habits have changed forever. Recent technological advances, changing attitudes on management, and flexible working all allow for a more positive vision of work in the future.
Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills are in demand across the world as companies strive to meet the needs of our increasingly technological society. But what will the future of work look like for young people entering the workplace today who are keen to ignite successful careers?
We're seeing a global shift towards increased use of contingent workforces, shorter job tenures, and rapidly growing societal preferences towards working remotely from home or hybrid working arrangements.
More professionals, especially in STEM, are willing to work within the freelance economy as they have more choice on projects they work on.
Our CEO, Timo Lehne and French Director, Claire Bonenfant sat down with Samuel Durand, Producer of the Work in Progress Documentary, to discuss flexible working, the global demand for STEM skills and what companies have to do to attract talent.
Timo Lehne: We’re an international recruitment consultancy operating in 14 countries. We are focusing on two specific fields, one is STEM recruitment which stands for the technology recruitment, the engineering, the life sciences and the experts in mathematics. And the other important pillar is that we predominantly focus on flexible work which means it’s either independent contractors we recruit or employed contractor models depending on the jurisdiction we operate in.
Claire Bonenfant: Today, we know that with the volumes of new graduates it won’t be enough to meet our needs in the coming years – especially these new jobs. And so, we really need to make the most of this opportunity for diversity by reaching out to talent that may have dropped out of companies. It can be parents who have stopped working for a long time. It can be seniors who need to be retrained for jobs we need for our future. It can also be people from more underprivileged backgrounds, who may not have access to these jobs and education, in order to have the talent pool that is needed to be able to respond to the challenges that our society faces.
Timo Lehne: Within in SThree, but also with our clients and candidates we quite some major trends over the recent years. Number one, there’s obviously a huge push towards more flexible work which means the way of how you work – hybrid, remote, in the office, not in the office. But also, what is your working methodology? So basically, are you working in a permanent role or are you working as an independent contractor or as an employed contractor?
And we’re seeing also in our surveys, that demand for particularly younger generations is much more to be over or more flexible. What we can really observe is that if companies nowadays don’t understand what their own purpose is, but also employees don’t understand what they contribute and what the purpose of their role is, then there’s a difficulty and a disconnect. That directly links again to the overall responsibility of companies nowadays to topics like ESG and the overall social responsibility which every company has – to participate, to help, to socially support the community but also the environment are really big topics nowadays.
I think it’s very straightforward, any company which isn’t really taking care of that and putting it on top of their agenda will be left behind. Particularly in France, what we’ve tried over the years now is a blueprint, a concept where we really try to build flat hierarchies with a very collaborative approach within the office where we live within a very open a clear feedback culture – which is important to really drive high-performing teams.
Claire Bonenfant: Four years ago, the French brand of SThree was the first to pilot organisational transformations for more responsibility and autonomy in our teams. And for this, we used collective intelligence and collaboration tools in order to build a collective sense of belonging. And it’s true that it allowed us to test before the crisis mechanisms such as hybrid work, self-governance, shared governance or collective bonuses. And so our experience has been helpful to other branches where they have developed some of these processes, in particular the hybrid working model across the Group.
Timo Lehne: Most of the work nowadays is project related. They are just based on 6, 9 and 12 months and therefore sometimes talent is no needed for longer period of time, more short-term. On the other side, we saw an acceleration because due to the Covid pandemic within the freelance market because it generated much higher demand for companies to digitalise their supply chains. Their supply chains really got disrupted as we all saw over the last two or three years. So there is high pressure at the moment for customers to invest into their technologies to automated as many process as possible.
On the other side, we see a huge trend in the engineering environment through the political forces due to net-zero targets we have as an overall society businesses need to decarbonise. So cement, steel production, chemical production they all have to find ways of how to produce their products with way less ecological footprint.
Then there’s this other trend around renewable energy obviously, that in many countries they are either really putting their bets on nuclear energy where there is a huge investment phase coming up. And for that, they need a lot of these freelancers and flexible workers.
Claire Bonenfant: In late 2019, early 2020, we immediately supported freelancer union Independents.co to the point that when it launched, we participated in the first surveys. Working with freelancers for over 20 years, we fully acknowledge the emergency and the need to change the status of freelancers very quickly. We appreciated the approach of Independents.co which is made by and for independents. We are very proud to be partners of this union to help the status of freelancers in France evolve.
SThree also, of course, has a role to play in evangelising the freelance status to companies. Today, Human Resources departments are beginning to address the issue and we are beginning to play our part by helping them to onboard, work with and offboard independent workers. And it requires a particular expertise. That’s why with our 20 years’ experience we really are trustworthy on this expertise because the line is thick between support and prevention of HR risk.
Catherine Barba: If you compare the situation today with what happened 25 years ago when the internet arrived, it’s exactly the same thing to me. I find myself in the very same position as 25 years ago, when I had to spread the good word on the internet arriving and changing everything and disrupting every business. And today it’s exactly the same with the future of work, the way we work differently. My position is just the same, I try to raise awareness on this topic with every single company I meet. I try to collect the fears – companies either fear the topic or ignore so there’s still a long way to go.
It's very complicated for a company to adapt to something knew, you know? We’ve been facing so many disruptions and changes over the last two years. You have the digital and working remotely, the necessity to grow despite all the mess around. So the future of work, people working differently is something quite new so it’s quite normal not to measure the importance of this. I’ve been working on this for about a year, and what I’ve seen coming back from the US is that a lot of people feel like starting their own business. They want to be independent, they want to be freelance, but they don’t have the tools, they don’t know how to do it, they don’t know how to start.
So basically, after screening the whole market and everything that was on the market I came up with the idea that there was huge need for a new school. This school is called ENVI, ENVI school and that will help people to start or grow their business.
Claire Bonenfant: SThree operates in the STEM sectors – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And these jobs will have and already have a very strong impact on our future. To give you an example, it is obvious that we must pay attention to the diversity of our talents to avoid, for example, gender or age bias in artificial intelligence or in the development of new drugs. Therefore, we as experts in connecting talents have a key role to play in ensuring that we offer diversity in the talent we bring our clients.
And then, on a more personal note, I believe that as a leader we have a responsibility to build more inclusive businesses and societies. We have global issues at stake that are hyper-complex and important to raise. We know that we will be able to solve them only with the power of collective intelligence. And so, I think as a leader, our role is to start putting everyone in this dynamic of collective effort and maximising the diversity that can be found in our society.
I am amazed and proud every day of my colleagues who, four years ago, started a collective adventure of a lifetime which required a lot of courage to build a company where there is a better well-being, a better service provided to customers and especially to impact their employee experience. I think they did something very positive and virtuous, so I’m already super-proud of that and also very proud of our genuine commitment to freelancers to improve their status in France and all that entails with the partnerships that we set up.
Work in Progress documentaries
Samuel Durand's Work in Progress documentary series takes a closer look at the trends in the future of work space. How are people reinventing the ways in which they find meaning in work? What makes us choose one company over another? And what can companies do to provide meaningful work and attract the best talent?
Find out more and how you can watch the documentaries below.
Future of work news
SThree partners with the Future of Work Documentary
SThree is delighted to announce its partnership with Work in Progress 2 – a documentary that explores the future of work.
SThree partners with union for freelancers in France
International recruitment firm, SThree has signed a partnership with France’s first ever union for freelance and self-employed workers, Indépendants.co.
Could change in leadership structures empower the future of work?
Claire Bonenfant, Director at SThree France, recently took part in an independent documentary focused on the future of work. Below, she shares her thoughts on how re-shaping traditional ideas within people management could help us to re-build this future.
The future of work is changing, and so are skilled professionals expectations
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