In a digital world, how can being more human be key to unlocking more growth?

Originally published on

EY, Unilever and The B Team explore why organizations must be more human if they are to deliver sustained growth in a connected world.

We are living in an increasingly fragmented world with a crisis of slowing growth in many developed economies. Meanwhile, many brands and employers are attempting to become more meaningful: those with clear purpose are prospering, while many corporate “dinosaurs” that refuse (or are unable) to adapt are dying off as the rate of change increases.

Organizations of the future need to embrace fully the concepts of empowerment, learning and balancing technology with the individual if they are to succeed, by using the power of technology and automation to re-humanize – rather than de-humanize – the workplace.

There are several significant trends driving change in the new working world:

  • The range of workforce generations is growing: More generations are working together than ever before, with different expectations and attitudes. It is estimated that by 2025 millennials will make up 75% of the workforce – and life expectancy is still rising, so up to two thirds of babies born in the last year could live to be 100. People are retiring later, or not at all. We now have an environment in which older workers already report facing prejudice at work and millennial executives struggle to gain acceptance from older colleagues.
  • Work is less permanent and more flexible: By 2020, almost 20% of US workers will be “contingent” rather than permanent. That’s 31 million people. If that sounds like bad news, consider that 80% of today’s contingent workers appreciate the flexibility. (What happens when a job for life becomes a job for a day?)
  • Successful business models look radically different: New business models are springing up all over the world, many of them rooted digitally in the “sharing economy.” Nearly half of UK business leaders think that their current business models will cease to exist within the next five years.
  • Increasing economic inequality: The richest 1% of the global population is now estimated to own over 50% of all global household assets. This is especially bad news for economic growth: inequality at the bottom of the income scale hurts overall growth, and countries where income inequality is decreasing grow faster than those with rising inequality.
  • The rise of robots in the workplace: Smart machines could replace 33% of jobs by 2025, and Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England stated earlier this year that almost 15m UK jobs could be “hollowed out” with the workforce being replaced by robots: “Alongside its great benefits, every technological revolution mercilessly destroys jobs and livelihoods…well before the new ones emerge.”
  • Political and social instability: From mass human migration as a result of war, conflict and the search for employment, to Brexit – these socio-political shockwaves are driven by people who feel frustrated and ignored. They threaten to undermine an intertwined, global trading economy that was already in crisis.

These trends will affect everyone – and for those of us who run organizations, they should be a wake-up call.

To thrive in the new era, we need to rethink the role that organizations and their workforce play in driving competitive advantage.

Thriving will mean adapting to the changes, facilitating the interconnections between humans and investing in their uniquely human attributes.

Also see: EY Labor and Employment Law Guide.

EY Legal Services Contacts:



Roselyn Sands – Global Labor and Employment Law Leader




Peter Katko – Global Digital Law Leader