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It’s hard to believe that it’s been just under a year since ChatGPT launched into the world. That over the same time frame, all the chatter about the “Great Resignation” has gone from the “big quit” to the “big stay.” That not long after some companies were still touting their “work from anywhere” policies, new mandates require much more time in the office.
The last year has seen further disruption to the future of work, and Forbes’ second Future of Work 50 list, which we published last week, highlights the leaders, companies, thinkers and teams making an impact on where work is headed. Our list—eclectic on purpose; a snapshot by design—is not meant to be comprehensive. (Any list with executives of multinational corporations, activists fighting for workers’ rights and relatively unknown startup founders on the list must be, after all. Here’s last year’s version, if you’d like to check it out.)
I’m curious to hear from readers of this newsletter: Who’d we miss? Who should we consider next year? Our list covers a lot more than AI and return to office—climate change, neurodiversity, workforce development, labor rights—what themes that will matter in the future of work should we include? I’d love to hear from you. Hope it’s a great week!
Unions have won this round. The near-four-month-long strike of actors in the SAG-AFTRA union ended last Wednesday with a tentative agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The union’s national board approved the new contract with an 86% vote, and it now is before members to give their approval. The agreement provides wage increases for all, including background actors. It also creates a new way to compensate actors based on their works’ popularity on streaming services, and sets guidelines on using AI to replicate actors’ bodies and voices.
More than 53,000 Las Vegas hotel workers represented by the Culinary and Bartenders Unions also reached agreements with MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts. All three unions set a strike deadline for the end of last week, and had threatened to begin striking as more than 100,000 are expected in Sin City for the Las Vegas Grand Prix. The agreements provide wage increases, workload reductions, healthcare and pension funding, as well as give workers a say in how technology impacts their jobs.
Unions have been successfully flexing their muscles throughout 2023, with the United Auto Workers and the Writers Guild of America also getting better contracts after job actions. Trends and technology in the workplace may keep unions firmly in the driver’s seat. The Census Bureau’s new long-term population projections show that the working-age population from 2020 to 2030 will grow extremely slowly, meaning there will be more competition among employers to retain good workers. The union-friendly Biden administration and new technology—already-prevalent AI, but also up-and-coming areas including hydrogen energy—also will provide unionized workers more seats at the table to talk about how to create the best and most productive work environment for all.
LABOR + EMPLOYMENT
Apple agreed to pay up to $25 million in back pay and civil penalties to resolve accusations that the tech giant illegally discriminated against U.S. citizens and more permanent non-citizens in hiring. The Justice Department has been investigating Apple since 2019, and this settlement is the largest ever obtained under the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision. The DOJ said for positions that could fall under the federal permanent labor certification program (PERM)—which allows employers to sponsor foreign workers for permanent resident status—Apple did not advertise them on its external job website and required candidates to send paper applications. The company worked to fill these jobs with candidates who could be PERM beneficiaries.
A jury ruled that Robert De Niro’s production company, Canal Productions, must pay a $1.2 million settlement to De Niro’s former personal assistant. The former assistant sued the company and De Niro, claiming gender discrimination and retaliation. The jury found De Niro—who yelled “Shame on you!” at the former assistant while giving testimony—was not personally liable. De Niro had also sued the former assistant for spending thousands of dollars on food and car services with a company card and improperly transferring $450,000 worth of airline miles to her account. The jury found her not liable.
POLICY + PRACTICE
For millions of Americans with young children, balancing child care and work is an enormous and ever-present challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 100,000 Americans have been forced to stay home each month because of child care problems. This amounts to $122 billion in lost productivity, earnings and revenue, according to the Council for a Strong America. Goldman Sachs found child care needs more acutely impact Black women in the workplace. Nearly a quarter—24%—of Black women with children spend more than a fifth of their income on child care, compared with 17% of all adults. Also, 19% of Black women looking for jobs said that child care is a barrier to their search, compared with 11% of all adults.
While federal and state governments could help fund these services, child care is a politically fraught issue. Pandemic-associated federal aid for child care expired in September, and the impact of the “child care cliff” has yet to be fully understood. At the moment, it is largely up to individual workplaces to institute policies that can help employees ensure their children are safely taken care of so they are able to work. On-site daycare, like UPS is providing at some locations, helped avoid 120 unplanned absences and reduced employee turnover from 31% to 4%. On the other hand, bring-your-baby-to-work policies, in which infants share cubicles with their parents, are unlikely to have the desired effect. But it’s important to note that individual workplaces are able to create their own policies about child care, time off for caregiving parents and parental assistance. Generous leave and assistance policies can be in U.S. workplaces. Companies simply have to implement them.
WHAT’S NEXT: PWC’s MIKE FENLON
PwC’s Chief Future of Work Officer Mike Fenlon spent 17 years in lead human resources roles at the accounting and consulting giant before starting his new role last August. Forbes chatted with Fenlon, who also co-sponsors CEO Action, a pledge from more than 2,400 CEOs to advance diversity, equity and inclusion, about the rise of roles like his, the importance of AI training for everyone and what he sees more companies doing amid culture wars over DEI. Excerpts from the interview below have been edited for space and clarity.
So what does it mean to be the Chief Future of Work Officer? What do you do?
I previously served [as Chief People Officer]. We created this role; it didn’t exist previously. I think it’s a reflection of the profound disruption that’s occurring across many different dimensions and the demand for insight. I share our perspectives externally, whether it’s with clients or in forums.
Sounds more like a thought leader role. Many companies have added a head of remote or some kind of future workplace executive, whether from real estate or HR. Do you see that proliferating?
I do see it growing. I now regularly interact with people either with my title or some variation on the theme. More than ever, organizations are recognizing the need to transform—to adapt at a faster pace. There’s a value of having a role that’s entirely focused on that.
What I observe in C-suites with HR leadership is that teams are stretched. That was true three years ago. Having a dedicated focus like this—the fact that we’re seeing this category of role grow—is a reflection of that.
I’m talking to others at PwC about your AI initiatives. As a former chief people officer, what is most interesting to you?
We’ve made a commitment and an investment to upskill everybody. The investment is not just for a lucky few. From a learning and development standpoint, it [means] generative AI 101, understanding responsible AI, understanding for prompting skills. We’ll all be prompt engineers. Many of us aren’t that good at it. We need technical training. … If you’re not offering upskilling around AI, by definition you’re at risk. I’m at risk personally, wherever my career takes me, but so is the enterprise.
You brought up benefits. What are you seeing more attention being paid to?
We see more of a focus on the experience I have at work itself. One of the things we’re implementing is an AI-enabled talent marketplace. It’s an opportunity for people to have transparent access to projects. It’s more tech enabled. I have more transparency into the full breadth of opportunities.
More and more traditional corporate structures have projects that no one planned six months ago. Who gets those? Who knows about them? Who gets to raise their hand? How do you do that in a way that builds trust? Transparency is a key part of that. AI applications are a key part of it. And then having a skills portfolio, so that I’ve got a clear sense of an inventory of my skills. I understand which of those are growth skills that I want to develop, but also what skills may be declining in relevance.
You help lead the CEO Action pledge. What impact is all of the political controversy on DEI having on companies’ commitments?
I continue to see a strong commitment and recognition of the value of an inclusive culture. … Over the past few years there’s been a big emphasis on understanding each person’s unique differences. On helping people feel like they belong. What I’m seeing emerge now is a recognition of, yes, how we do that—but also how we create a sense of common bond, of common identity. You’ve got to have both. It’s not just about how you and I are different. It’s also about where do we connect? What do we have in common? I think people are very, very hungry for that. There’s an exhaustion from all of the culture wars, from all of the conflict, the divisiveness.
FACTS AND COMMENT
The FDA approved a third diabetes drug as a weight loss treatment last week. Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, which will be sold under the name Zepbound, could eventually be the best-selling drug of all time, experts say.
$1,060: Current list price for a one-month supply of Zepbound
22.5%: Percentage of weight reduction in clinical trials taking place during 72 weeks
‘Today’s approval addresses an unmet medical need’: Dr. John Sharretts, director of the Division of Diabetes, Lipid Disorders, and Obesity in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said in a statement
Here’s Why The NBA’s Cavaliers Are Tying Salary To Diversity Metrics
STRATEGIES + ADVICE
“Quiet cutting”—reassigning or relocating workers, or cutting their wages—can help a company’s bottom line, but ruin employee morale.
One way to fix employee burnout is to look at where people are spending their time and strategize ways to improve it (less emails, more actual collaboration).
Engaging employees can help them enjoy work—and go a long way toward better retention.
A college degree isn’t necessary for a high-paying job. The Bureau of Labor Statistics put out its annual list of the blue-collar jobs that, on average, have the highest salaries. Which one of these currently pays the best?
- Power plant operator
- Petroleum pump system operator
- Signal and track switch repair
See if you got the right answer here.