Deloitte U.S. CEO says hybrid model should 'bring best of both worlds' to meet employees halfway

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Deloitte U.S. CEO Joe Ucuzoglu told CNBC on Tuesday the future of work post-pandemic is not a zero-sum game.

“There's a tension between the desire of some leaders to bring back a preponderance of in-person work and a yearning of many in the labor force to preserve the level of flexibility,” Ucuzoglu said on “Squawk Box.” “This is not an all-or-nothing, though, and what we've been talking a lot about with respect to a hybrid model is bringing to life the best-of-both-worlds models.”

Ucuzoglu said while there are times when it is vital to be co-located with colleagues and customers, people can still be productive while working remotely. 

There is ample opportunity to retain a healthy dose of that flexibility and to mix the best of both going forward, and you're going to see some agility here,” said Ucuzoglu, who leads the global professional services firm's U.S. organization. “We're in the early innings. This is a fundamental reshaping of the way that society goes about work and integrating that into life.”

Ucuzoglu highlighted talent as a key focus for employers right now, particularly as supply chain and hiring challenges are felt across the U.S. economy during its Covid recovery. One-in-four workers plan to leave their jobs and look for opportunities with a new employer after the pandemic, according to Prudential Financials' Pulse of the American Worker survey conducted in March.

“There's a reinforcement that talent has shot up in terms of being one or two amongst a small handful of the most important strategic objectives in the C suite right now,” he said. “There has been a reordering of prioritization of all things digital skills and as a result, companies are having to go to great lengths to attract and retain the workforce that's necessary to take advantage of a robust economic outlook.”

The pandemic has also pushed companies to prioritize listening to employees and understanding what's important to them in terms of work flexibility, returning to the office and coronavirus vaccine requirements, Ucuzoglu said. 

Ucuzoglu said policies such as vaccine mandates are still a “mixed bag.” Employers are concerned about the adverse impact that vaccine requirements may have on certain workers refusing to get the shot, he said, but they also recognize that many employees want the mandates in order to feel safe in returning to the office. 

Many businesses have postponed their in-person fall work plans due to the surge in Covid cases fueled by the more contagious delta variant. The nationwide increase in cases has also led major companies, including Google, Walmart and United Airlines, to implement vaccine mandates for some or all of their employees.

Ucuzoglu said Deloitte U.S. recently told its employees that its 800-room corporate training facility, Deloitte University, will reopen at full capacity in September for fully vaccinated employees. Deloitte U.S. employed more than 110,000 people as of fiscal year 2020 and has more than 80 locations throughout the country.

Ucuzoglu said a “very large proportion” of the company's employees are yearning to come back to the office and be with their colleagues. However, he said, return-to-office plans will be a gradual process with employees acclimating at a pace they're comfortable with.

“There is a realization with the delta variant surging that Covid will probably be with us for some time. It's not going to go away cleanly on some specific date,” he said, which means companies are tasked with trying to create “the environment in which the vast majority of your people will feel confident getting back together and co-locating.”

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