HR Insights and News

17th June 2021

Evolving Jobs and Skills: Attributes of the Future Workforce

Written by Caleb Baker

Jobs and skills are evolving. The need to reskill and upskill employees are no longer just a trend. Organisations are concerned about the lack of skills their workforce needs to thrive in the future. Relevant skills strategies for employees are top of the agenda among business leaders today, especially for HR executives. Digitalisation and automation continue to disrupt work and the workforce. Can the workforce keep up with these new realities and be ready for the future of work?

New jobs in the workforce

Organisations, industry experts and employees are seeing the emergence of new jobs that never existed before. These jobs are being created due to the digitalisation of businesses operating models to achieve better customer experiences as a growth driver. Technology is transforming work patterns and functions. New jobs have emerged in today’s workforce that never existed, and there are newly created jobs within a business function or sector.

Five years ago, remote work was a luxury and often earned based on trust and performance. Today, business leaders are confident that the work-from-home (WFH) setup is here to stay. With that, organisations are looking to hire WFH facilitators to ensure employees are engaged, motivated and cared for. In late 2020, People Matters Global introduced the “People Matters BeNext” certification program to train and certify professionals interested in becoming WFH facilitators. This program aims to improve people’s online communication, collaboration, facilitation and team alignment. Last year, we also saw the rise of virtual babysitting. Parents working from home found it difficult to care for their children and focus on work simultaneously. They then started hiring virtual nannies to keep their kids occupied. Demand for these virtual guardians continues to grow.

New jobs have emerged within our operating models that never existed at Will. For example, technologists, digital marketing and social media managers, data analysts, process improvement managers and transformation managers have now formed an integral part of our recruitment teams due to digital transformation. There are also new HR roles that we may start to see shortly, including human-bias facilitators and human/candidate experience strategists.

What makes a job genuinely new? First, existing jobs become more meaningful and valuable because of technology. Then, through innovation, new skills and new job responsibilities surface, resulting in new jobs that are complex but also more rewarding at the same time.

The big challenge now is how to prepare and equip the workforce for these new jobs and skills.

Skills gaps/mismatch – the need to upskill or reskill

Developing critical skills and competencies is the number one objective in 2021 for HR, according to Gartner’s Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders report. The report showed that 33% of skills required in an average job advertisement in 2017 will not be needed this year and that skills necessary for a particular job are increasing by 10% year on year.

Not only is this a pressing HR agenda, but it is also a business priority of leaders across all industries, as addressed in Mercer‘s Global Talent Trends report. It cites, “Without accelerating our progress on the skills agenda, we won’t have the talent to take advantage of the new jobs we’re creating. So this is both a business and an HR challenge.”

Earlier in April, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN Global) released a report to guide CHROs in maximising skills strategies through methods like upskilling and reskilling employees. The information made it clear that the development of skills among the workforce is “key to a sustainable world of work.”

The World Economic Forum (WEF), in a 2020 report, listed four types of skills the workforce needs by 2025 – technology use and development, problem-solving, self-management and working with people. These core skills are then broken down into specific ones like analytical thinking, active learning, leadership, social influence, technology design, ideation and more. In addition, as per the report, 50% of all employees will need reskilling by 2025.

Several organisations are already on track with their upskilling and reskilling programs and are expecting a return on their investments within a year. However, the WEF report also found that more than half of employees are not engaging with upskilling and reskilling opportunities. According to a 2020 global survey by McKinsey, 87% of executives are already dealing with talent gaps in their workforce or are expecting them in the next few years. Despite that, less than half of the respondents have a clear sense of what needs to be done and the rest, not so much.

There are also significant developments to celebrate. In the Asia Pacific region, several organisations are investing significantly to enable their employees to learn new skills. LinkedIn’s The Future of Talent report surveyed more than 3,500 respondents across seven markets in the APAC region. The report found that 86% of organisations have placed programs to develop their talent, and 66% are providing their employees reskilling and upskilling opportunities.

However, there is still a long way to go until the global workforce can be deemed prepared. The majority of the workforce is still unprepared for the future of work, but employers and employees are slowly realising what needs to be done to get there.

Failure to resolve this skills gap may result in severe risks for employees and organisations. The inability to prepare employees for future roles leads to an unsustainable workforce. Employees who cannot reskill or upskill will be left behind despite the rapid growth of new jobs. If this continues, there won’t be enough qualified talent in the pipeline to meet evolving hiring demands. This can also result in the global unemployment rate increasing exponentially in the coming years.

Organisations risk higher costs in the future and the inability to improve their services if they fail to develop their workforce. From there, it won’t be easy to drive the business forward and establish growth.

This is a multi-stakeholder priority

Preparing the workforce for the future of work is not an agenda that rests on the shoulders of HR, business leaders and employers alone. PwC’s Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report urges public-private sector partnerships involving governments, corporations and education providers to collaborate on inclusive workforce upskilling to close the skills gap across all countries. That way, no one gets left behind in the future of work.

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison clarifies that it is essential for Australia’s employees to “regularly reskill,” especially in technology. In Singapore, the government’s SkillsFuture career support and SGUnited Jobs and Skills initiatives aim to help job seekers find jobs and reskill at the same time. A collective approach to resolving this problem can improve both the employment rate and the economy.

The PwC report also presented compelling data illustrating the GDP gain of $6.5 trillion and 5.3 million new jobs that upskilling could create for the global economy by 2030 if the workforce is upskilled according to OECD’s industry best practices by 2028.

HR leads the charge

The agenda of preparing the workforce for evolving jobs and skills expands HR’s roles and responsibilities, according to the LinkedIn report mentioned above.

We see that reality today. Jobs are evolving, the workforce is growing, and HR is evolving as well. From a support function, HR is now a strategic leader, trusted advisor and business partner in positioning today’s workforce across all demographics, for success in tomorrow’s work.

For this journey, HR will need support from recruiters and hiring managers. The challenge of skills gaps can be addressed during the recruitment stage. Recruiters and hiring managers can provide insights and educate job seekers about evolving skills and jobs. Job seekers can then use the information to realign their career journey and focus on the right path. It is essential that both employees and job seekers know this and what it means for the future of work and the workforce.

Call to action

“Organisations will need to continue identifying skills gaps among their employees and help them build the skills and competencies needed to thrive. This will enable organisations to perform better, survive through difficult times and adapt to changing scenarios more easily,” says Steve Brown, Managing Director for ChapmanCG, a Will company.

Brown adds, “Continuous learning and development opportunities through the right learning platform will help employers stay organised and offer training to more employees at once.”

Technology is important in developing the workforce. Organisations must incorporate the right technology under the right conditions to enable employees to take on evolving roles. There is also the matter of measuring success and return on investment from upskilling and reskilling programs, which are basically considered human capital investments.

We need to prepare our employees to adapt and react to future complexities and thrive. Therefore, reskilling and upskilling must be core principles of workforce investment. These development strategies must be discussed across the boardroom table and we need to determine demand signals and indicators to focus on the fundamental objectives.

Written by Caleb Baker

Caleb Baker (Cal) joined Will in Oct 2019 as Managing Director - Strategic Growth, Technology and Talent Solutions. Cal leads the growth agenda focussing on the design of Will’s products and services strategy across the group. Caleb is passionate about building group wide capability to deliver progressive talent solutions through innovative service designs and the adoption of leading HR technology.

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