Research Summary

Managing the Future or Work: Layoffs, Restructuring, and Global Workforce Change

by Sandra J. Sucher


Business leaders and policy makers are consumed, even obsessed, with the future of work. They fear a future where machines will replace humans, putting thousands out of jobs. 

But the “future of work” is happening now and has been for decades. For the last 30 years businesses have addressed future of work challenges largely by relying on layoffs, downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring. These have hurt employees, communities, and company profits. Worse, the revulsion inspired by these practices has led to a rejection of globalization and a damaging loss of trust in business.

For the last eight years I have been scouring the globe for companies who have found a better way.  I’ve found a set of forward-looking companies who are inventing strong and sustainable bridges between today’s economic realities and the future world of work.

The challenges they are addressing include: 

  • Workforce change
  • Skills development
  • New business-workforce models
  • Technological change
  • Stakeholder collaboration
  • Influence of business on society

The companies include some well-known names—Royal Dutch Shell, Honeywell, Michelin, Lincoln Electric, and Nokia, and some new ones: Recruit Holdings Ltd., a service conglomerate in Japan, and China’s Suzhou Good-Ark Electronics.

The bridges they are building are based on three pillars. The first is a deep respect for the contribution employees make to their businesses. Second, careful planning made in collaboration with employees, stakeholders, and governments. Finally, these companies also invest in the skills and marketability of their employees.

In other words, they manage to be committed to their employees, companies, societies, and soundly profitable. In the book I am writing, I will describe how these companies operate, and their principles and practices. I will lay out a more sustainable path to the future of work than the one we are on now.

Keywords: layoffs; Leadership and Change Management; Global innovation; strategic decision making; multinational corporations; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Manufacturing Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Rubber Industry; Employment Industry; United States; France; Germany; Hungary; Finland; United Kingdom; Netherlands; China; Japan; Brazil;