The latest statistics from the International Labour Organization (ILO) reveals that in 2020, close to 9% of global working hours were lost due to COVID-19. This equates to 255 million full-time jobs – approximately four times higher than jobs lost in 2009 during the global financial crisis.
Workforce disruption is happening at an unprecedented scale and speed, and organisations are working to create more inclusive teams, embark on ambitious paths for reskilling, and transform physical and digital workplaces. They are striving to meet the future of work head-on. The goal is to build shared workforce resilience – working together to keep as many people employed, healthy and safe as possible, with an eye to equipping them with new skills for the future.
Skills are the new currency
New skills will be the key to rebuilding resilient workforces now and moving forward. Organisations will have a crucial role to play in making sure that employees acquire the new skills and have the right mindsets needed for future work. Due to the current high rate of unemployment, we expect immediate short-term upskilling trends. However, based on the magnitude of the required skills, we believe that in the long-term, we will see more meaningful and sustainable investments to support upskilling leaps.
Research has shown that workers embrace opportunities to grow and expand their skills. For instance, our recent study revealed that workers’ enthusiasm towards digital skills were significantly greater. However, another survey highlights that there are obstacles getting in the way of that enthusiasm for upskilling.
For example, although 66% of workers feel broadly supported by their employers, only half agree that their employers are providing training opportunities, and even fewer, 25% report that their employers sponsor educational or outside training opportunities that they want to pursue.
To succeed in upskilling for the new normal, we propose a human-centered, systems-minded approach that promotes shared workforce resilience. It is a continuous process that also requires the relationships across stakeholder groups. Each organisation will be at a different level of maturity, and with varied labour laws and regulations around the world, not every company will move at the same speed or follow the same path.
Five focus areas for achieving workforce resilience:
- Predict demand shifts
Identify and forecast where workforce shifts need to occur. The key question is how do you use analytics to understand and prepare for the shifts of workers across functions, industries and companies?
The unprecedented disruption and pace of change can make traditional forecasting models obsolete, therefore rapid, iterative modelling of potential scenarios can optimise decision making. It won’t be perfect, but it can be sufficient to start planning and taking action.
- Assess skill profiles
Create a baseline for the skills you possess versus skills predicted to be in high demand.
Here you determine how to assess the optimal shift in your workforce, both in number and skills. Create future oriented profiles based on the skills, aptitudes and interests required. Look for unique combinations and consider related adjacent skills that can broaden the range of available roles.
- Connect workers at scale
Bring together people at scale by shifting impacted people within or outside the organisation.
Regardless of industry barriers, organisations can partner to build a resilient ecosystem that helps people access continued employment opportunities. The key question here is how do you collaborate internally across functions and externally across industries to connect people to future work?
- Accelerate learning
How do you accelerate individuals’ learning curves, so they can become more productive?
Use your insights into demand profiles to develop a well-defined picture of the relevant skills needed. By comparing existing skills to current needs, HR can identify the skill gaps for the organisation. Create the ability for people to rapidly learn, in order to change the trajectory of their career.
- Foster shared resilience
Lastly and especially critical in light of the pandemic is how do you care for, nurture and foster resilience in people?
Creating shared workforce resilience means embracing vulnerability and encouraging open sharing about what is hard and uncomfortable. These behaviours and mindsets lay the foundation for new ways of working that foster a more collaborative and less competitive talent ecosystem.
Leaders need to rethink how to prepare the workforce of the future. They need to examine how they cultivate a new range of skill sets from creativity to complex cognitive capabilities They also need to create a compelling vision for the entire organisation, understand the impact of change on people, and develop new models that will help people cope with the changes.