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Stephen Harrington Deloitte

Stephen Harrington

Director of Human Capital, Deloitte Canada

A shared purpose and creative thinking are key to a more productive and future-ready workplace.


Even before the COVID19 pandemic, the workplace landscape in Canada and around the world had been evolving at an astonishing pace. While plenty of the changes have been positive, many employees and organizations wonder how they should prepare to meet the challenges of the future.

“New workplace trends can seem overwhelming, so many employers and workplace designers want to try to predict the future with only one idea in mind,” says Stephen Harrington, Director of Human Capital at Deloitte. “But we can’t predict one exact future. So instead, we can articulate a number of possible futures and then try to build strategies that would work across them all. Building multiple scenarios remains a core piece of what we think our clients should do when it comes to planning for the future.”

Forward-thinking workplaces

Harrington emphasizes that for businesses to stay on top of the changes in human capital and workplace trends, they need to be willing to let go of antiquated workplace models. “The big mindset shift we need in the market is to move away from our 20th-century habits,” he says. “We need to focus on changing our business models and no longer seeing investing in large technologies as the only way to start a transformation.”

Harrington explains why the key to longterm success is innovative thinking: “The old thinking used to be that you would change your processes and your structures, and then maybe at the end of all of that, you might get to redesigning the job. At Deloitte, what we’ve started to get companies to do instead is to look very closely at the tasks that sit underneath the jobs. Then companies need to consider which of these tasks are dull or expensive or not core to their strategy. Could they give some of these tasks to remote or contingent workers?

“The big step is to get businesses to reimagine the work,” Harrington continues. “Then they need to build a foundation for the job of the future as the target and then work backwards from there to figure out what technologies, processes, and structures are needed to make that job a reality. It’s amazing what a big difference this shift in thinking can have on design and the impact that companies can ultimately have on their customers and their community.”

A strong purpose means a successful business

Having a strong purpose, Harrington believes, is also a key component of a successful, forward-looking business. “Sometimes companies will need to have a purpose-first, rather than a profit-first, philosophy to build a better workplace,” he says. “To me, that’s the power of purpose. If you can all pull together for a collective goal, it can attract loyal customers and loyal employees.”

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