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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Friday 16 May 2014
The future of work: living with unequal reward

The future of work: living with unequal reward

Recent entrants to the workforce are increasingly asking if it’s really worth the effort to work harder, longer and faster.  They seem to be questioning whether it’s worth the effort to constantly aspire to climb the next rung on the ladder.

Perhaps more than my generation, these people care about their work/life balance and finding new skills and experiences. They’re often prepared to adjust their salary expectations accordingly. Unlike my generation, they do not equate salary and promotion to personal worth and don’t all believe entering the upper reaches of the salary league table is worth striving for. Promotion is desirable, more because of the new experiences it brings rather than increased pay and responsibility.  Instead, they want to earn ‘enough’ – enough to live on and for enjoyment, but not what they view as excessive.  Beyond that, they see earning power akin to the law of diminishing returns.

To my mind, this should herald the emergence of a new breed of senior leader, who sees corporate charisma as equally important to smart business ideas. They will paint a picture of their company’s vision, values and purpose that is compelling enough to inspire newer generations of workers.

Attracting best talent

We are beginning to see the emergence of this new type of leader in technology related areas. In the near future, however, I think we will see more individuals who can enthuse and attract the best talent, and with that will come phenomenal rewards.

Of course, the job of constantly painting an attractive, values-driven picture will be no mean feat. It will also be at the mercy of external, societal factors. What makes a company’s ethos attractive can change fairly quickly – flavour of the month can easily become millstone around the neck, two years later.

The moment one of these super-talented individuals leaves, they’ll probably take all the charisma with them. This rather validates the growing popularity of pop-up organisations which are better suited to the vagaries of shifting public sentiment.


David Fairs is a partner in the people power performance arm of KPMG