Post-Pandemic Workforce Dynamics, Pt. 1: Evolution Is an Opportunity

As the future of work continues to be defined, new strategies for human capital and talent management offer opportunities for a new vision.

Strengthening an agency's cybersecurity governance. Modernizing enterprise technology. Administering an influx of infrastructure investment funds. No matter what an organization is grappling with today, it likely includes a workforce challenge. 

In all cases, similar questions arise: Does the enterprise have the necessary human capital? Are workers trained on the required skills? Is the organization's IT infrastructure up to the task?

While many business leaders are eager to move past the pandemic, Human Resources (HR) executives know that COVID-19 permanently changed global workforce dynamics. This is particularly acute for Federal HR leaders, who saw their workforce budgets decreased due to sequestration during the 2010s and are trying to put resources back in place.

HR leaders are grappling with upheavals largely spurred by the COVID era, including:

  • The sudden shift to remote work
  • Changes to caregiving responsibilities
  • New perceptions of workplace safety and satisfaction
  • Amplification of social justice issues
  • Impacts on household finances
  • Reevaluation of personal priorities and values

The impacts of these dynamics have included:

  • The Great Resignation/Great Reshuffle
  • Ongoing labor shortages
  • Power dynamic shifts between employees and employers
  • Increased workforce data needs
  • Greater emphasis on employee resilience and combating burnout
  • Changing employee expectations around workplace flexibility

Organizations across the public and private sectors require new strategies to compete in a tight labor market. Employers understand that a holistic, long-term reinvention of their approach to workforce management is required.


Optimizing an Adaptable Workforce: An Interconnected Megatrend

The post-pandemic workforce environment is one of five interconnected global trends challenging both government and business. We've identified five megatrends as forces driving the world's rapidly evolving complexity: Reimagining Resilient Communities, Accelerating Innovation and Tech, Preserving Security, Maximizing Data, and Optimizing an Adaptable Workforce.

Optimizing an Adaptable Workforce is foundational to every other megatrend. Organizations must meet workforce challenges to navigate the global geopolitical, regulatory, and business landscape.

In the first part of this two-part series, we examine Human Capital Strategy and Talent Management.


Global Workforce Dynamics: Challenges and Developments

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the workforce because it changed people. Societal shifts fundamentally transformed labor dynamics worldwide. We've organized the most impactful challenges to Optimizing an Adaptable Workforce into four themes: Human Capital Strategy, Talent Management, Workforce Modernization, and Workforce Analytics.

Human Capital Strategy

Workplace mental health and wellness programming is increasingly important following the pandemic's psychological and emotional toll. Burnout remains on the rise globally, with an all-time high of 42% of workers reporting experiencing it in a 2023 Future Forum survey.1

Addressing workplace burnout and developing employee resilience are not plug-and-play. Success requires strategic talent management and ongoing maintenance, which can be a challenge for overwhelmed HR departments.

The elevation of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs during the pandemic affects the workforce data environment. But DEI initiatives must measure more than who walks in the door. A study found nearly half of Black employees are unhappy at work, citing microaggressions and misalignment between stated DEI goals and reality.2

Organizational wins depend on genuine and comprehensive DEI — something the future workforce will consider in any employment decision.

Talent Management

The labor market has defied expectations by remaining strong years past the Great Resignation. A key factor is changing demographics. Pandemic-era retirements and a shrinking global workforce participation rate suggest labor shortages could continue for years.This is particularly acute in STEM-related fields but is also being felt across the transportation and construction industries.

Organizations are therefore reevaluating their recruitment and retention approach. Offering flexible work arrangements is one strategy. Employees unhappy with their degree of workplace flexibility in the Future Forum survey were 53% more likely to experience burnout. Eighty-one percent of desk workers want location flexibility, and 93% of all employees want schedule flexibility.

Flexibility, however, can unleash an array of challenges, from employee oversight to issues arising from the megatrends of Accelerating Innovation and Tech and Preserving Security. The choice between having employees return to the office and establishing a hybrid or remote arrangement impacts many organizational priorities. Navigating any of these models requires a strategic approach and practical expertise.


Opportunities to Optimize an Adaptable Workforce

These challenges are manageable with the right strategies, programming, and technology, and present key opportunities for Human Capital Strategy and Talent Management teams to optimize their workforce.

Human Capital Strategy

Organizations can prepare for the future workforce with strategic and operational planning. This should center on identifying critically needed talent and curating a distinctive employee experience that incorporates DEI.

Talent Management

Enterprise leaders' ongoing talent management efforts should place a focus on recruitment and retention, reskilling and upskilling, and leadership development to ensure the necessary talent to execute critical roles within the organization.


The Future Workforce: An Evolving Vision

This intricately interconnected megatrend requires vigilance, proactive strategies, and government-industry collaboration. Neither innovation nor regulation is enough to tackle the upheaval involved.

To succeed, both public and private sector leaders must leverage integrated and comprehensive insights spanning the corporate and governmental spheres. Implementing responses based on deep insights and a bigger, more inclusive vision will result in a happier, more adaptable workforce, not to mention economic growth, security gains, increased efficiency, and improve equity and sustainability.



1. Future Forum Pulse, “Amid Spiking Burnout, Workplace Flexibility Fuels Company Culture and Productivity, Pulse Winter Snapshot,” February 2023.

2. Jocelyne Gafner, “Report: 49% of Black Workers Are Considering Leaving Their Job and Here’s Why,” Indeed, May 18, 2023.

3. Roy Maurer, “Labor Shortages Forecast to Persist for Years,” SHRM, January 23, 2023.


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