Opportunity Marketplaces

Aligning Workforce Investment and Value Creation in the Digital Enterprise

by: Michael Schrage, Jeff Schwartz, David Kiron, Robin Jones, and Natasha Buckley

In response to unrelenting digital disruption, many leaders are rethinking how they value and invest in their workforces. Across the business landscape, corporate leaders are seeking to develop more flexible, adaptive, and valuable workers. Our global research study directly addresses this challenge. Based on a survey of nearly 3,900 respondents and 18 executive interviews, we find that the most effective approaches to achieving a higher-value workforce have a common core: opportunity.

Targeted investment in opportunity is fast becoming the central organizing principle for making more people more valuable in more organizations. Our global executive survey and interviews identify the design of opportunity marketplaces as perhaps the key leadership challenge for most organizations seeking to ethically maximize human capital returns.

We see opportunity marketplaces as systems, digital platforms, and virtual places where organizations provide — and workers find — the opportunities most relevant to their mutual benefit and success. In an effective marketplace, the enterprise offers its workers defined options for professional development, mentorship, project participation, and networking, among others. Empowered workers, in turn, can choose to pursue those opportunities they most value. Vibrant, robust, and inclusive opportunity marketplaces strategically align both individual and enterprise aspirations. Investment in greater workforce opportunity is seen — and understood — as an investment in greater workforce value creation.

In our first year researching the future of the workforce, MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte1 present this report highlighting the urgency and importance of this approach. We find that many leaders and workers alike are not satisfied with corporate investments in their development. Seventy-four percent of respondents believe that developing worker skills and capabilities is important to their organization’s strategy, but only 34% are happy with their organization’s investment in them. Nearly half of all workers surveyed are prepared to leave their organization if offered a buyout or severance package.

The corrective, our research shows, goes beyond a greater emphasis on workforce restructuring, retraining, reskilling, and “rightsizing” efforts. For many workers, more skills — and even better experiences — without more opportunity is insufficient.


1. Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a U.K. private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the U.S. member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States, and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

2. A. Sen, “Well-Being, Agency, and Freedom: The Dewey Lectures 1984,” The Journal of Philosophy 82, no. 4 (April 1985): 169-221; E.S. Phelps, “Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change” (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2013); and “Coase’s Theory of the Firm,” The Economist, July 27, 2017, www.economist.com.

3. A.C. Edmondson, “The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth” (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2018).

4. A. Sen, “Well-Being, Agency, and Freedom: The Dewey Lectures 1984,” The Journal of Philosophy 82, no. 4 (April 1985): 169-221.

5. J. Hagel, M. Wooll, J.S. Brown, et al., “If You Love Them, Set Them Free,” Deloitte Insights, June 6, 2017, www2.deloitte.com.

6. J. Hagel, M. Wooll, and J.S. Brown, “Skills Change, but Capabilities Endure,” Deloitte Insights, Aug. 30, 2019, www2.deloitte.com.

7. LinkedIn produces an opportunity index that focuses on individual perceptions of opportunities about work and life in different regions of the world (https://economicgraph.linkedin.com/research/opportunity-index-2020). We are proposing a somewhat different kind of index: a business-specific opportunity index that explores worker perceptions about the availability of, and their ability to pursue, desirable opportunities in their workplace.

8. M. Wallack, “Perks Are Out, Internal Mobility Is In: What Gen Zs Truly Look for in the Workplace,” Gloat, March 20, 2019, www.gloat.com.

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