World Reimagined

Four Forces That Shape Workplace Strategy

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When it comes to the workplace, there are four pillars on which everything is built.

They’re the forces that have shaped strategy throughout history, but as technology accelerates change throughout the workplace, some companies are losing sight of those tentpoles. A refocus on them, however, could help position those businesses for long-term success.

Specialization, scarcity, rivalry and humanity make up the four forces. And a new report from PwC posits that by understanding how they’ve worked in the past, you can prepare yourself and your company for future challenges.

The amount of disruption businesses has faced in the past three years is unprecedented. The pandemic obliterated normal customer patterns. Employees were, without warning, forced to find a new way to work. Supply chain issues disrupted the recovery process. Workers are resigning at a staggering rate. And a global recession is complicating everything.

Those can all take your attention away from the four forces. That sort of distraction can unbalance a company, while keeping sight of the forces can help you navigate many of the problems common among businesses today.

Here’s a look at what the four forces represent and how they can be used.

1. Specialization

Expertise in a field is one of the clearest paths to success. And today, digital technologies make it easier for businesses to advance, encouraging collaboration, both internally and with specialists in other areas or ecosystems. Think, for example, of how thousands of small businesses rely on Amazon’s e-commerce service to handle the sales and fulfillment duties they previously would have had to do in-house.

Employees, meanwhile, will benefit from anticipating the next stage in specialization and pivoting to them in a timely manner before the current stage becomes obsolete.

2. Scarcity

This refers less to the product these days and more to talent. Skills shortages can hurt the performance of both employees and the company as a whole. As a result of the pandemic, demand for labor in some industries has spiked, as workers leave to find better opportunities. In others, automation has displaced workers, as their positions are made redundant.

As a result, companies need to evaluate the specialist skills spread across their workforce and invest in education to prepare employees for future challenges. At the same time, a look at softer skills, such as leadership and management, is called for as the challenges of leading groups of people continue to shift. Leaders and workers that are prepared for future issues will be rare, giving them and their employer an edge when they arise.

3. Rivalry

Standing out as an employer not only attracts customers, it attracts top-tier workers. Technology is creating new sorts of rivalries, as the most-skilled employees can jump from industry to industry. Meanwhile, geographical boundaries are less of a factor these days, thanks to telecommuting and hybrid working. 

“As always, you want your organization to stand out as an employer so you can assemble the right people and talent programs in order to bring your business model and strategy to life,” PwC writes. “But to compete in the future, your strategy might depend on your being able to attract and retain a workforce with a very different set of skills than you have today—to support your move into adjacent businesses. Consider the skills shifts necessary for Apple to move from its roots in product design into services such as banking, and health and well-being.”

4. Humanity

The pandemic made workers reassess their careers. Were the salary and long hours worth what you had to give up on a day-to-day basis? Was the company culture one that was harmonious with your own beliefs about everything from society to inclusion at the workplace?

More and more, companies are looking to stand out for their humanity, whether that’s taking a definitive position on climate change or paying extra attention to mental health issues.

“When the company’s purpose resonates with people, and they see clearly how they further it, not only are they more likely to stay (which could help with any of the other three forces), but they tend to be more engaged—and productive,” says PwC.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and

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