Amid ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic and a worsening global talent crisis, all bets are off for the future of work.
Employees are clearly looking for something different, and Publicis Groupe wants to give it to them.
On Tuesday the holding company unveiled a new program called “Work Your World” that allows its employees to work abroad for up to six weeks out of every year in any of the more than 100 countries where Publicis has an office.
Starting in January 2022, all of Publicis’ roughly 85,000 global employees will be able to book exchanges through Marcel, the group’s AI-powered platform, which will serve up recommended destinations to them based on their role, interests and work experience.
Publicis Groupe - the owner of PR agencies MSL and Kekst CNC - has overtaken Omnicom and WPP to become the world’s most valuable agency group, after performing better than its two largest rivals since the start of the pandemic.
The program, which comes amid a global talent crisis, was built around the insight that to get people back to work, employees want more than just flexibility; they want new opportunities and perspectives, said Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis Groupe.
“We are still spending a lot of time looking at the right balance of working from home vs. working at the office,” he said. “I don't think anyone has found the formula yet for a simple reason: things are evolving so fast, it is very difficult.”
For Publicis, the Work Your World program is a recognition that the future of work is here and a bet that 2022 will be focused on getting talent back into the workforce. It’s also an effort to move on from reacting to the pandemic and start rewriting the rules for the future.
“How do you move from the defensive to the offensive?” Sadoun said. “Our clients need to grow and our people need to progress.”
Work Your World is powered by Marcel, which has pivoted in the past year to restaff accounts and save jobs during the pandemic. In addition to personalization, each destination includes a comprehensive profile on Marcel with up-to-date details on local health and business regulations. Marcel also streamlines the process of navigating visas and work permits and gives employees access to a 24-hour information hotline.
While Publicis won’t cover the cost of travel (unless it's tacked onto a business trip), the program helps connect employees with colleagues in other countries while finding them affordable housing. One feature, “home swap home,” helps employees identify a colleague in another country to swap homes with for their stay, and provides local contacts and opportunities to meet up with coworkers in foreign cities.
“It’s basically Airbnb inside [Marcel],” said Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer of Publicis Groupe and CEO of Publicis New York. “We live such digital lives. There needs to be an interface that's as modern as our workforce.”
For Publicis, a bold move to attract talent is necessary. The job market is still lagging from “The Great Recession, with US employment growth slowing in November. Agencies in particular are struggling to staff up after deep cuts made in the depths of the pandemic.
According to internal surveys, 95% of Publicis’ employees are interested in leveraging remote work exchanges as they reconsider both their jobs and their careers.
“At the moment, people are doubting their professional future in general,” Sadoun said. “In an industry where our most important asset is people, in an industry that stands for creativity, we owe people more opportunities and perspectives about the future of work that are bolder and more creative.”
Work Your World is just one step in how Publicis is reimagining the future of work.
In addition to creating creative collective Le Truc in New York in January, Publicis is building features into Marcel that help employees manage their wellbeing and assist managers in providing career growth opportunities for talent in hybrid working environments.
“It's really hard to manage people remotely,” Serrano said. “We are looking at all the intricacies of what a hybrid world looks like.”
This article first appeared in Campaign.