Is Your Organization Ready for the Talent Crunch?

 “A major crisis is coming, a seismic shock that will impact organizations and economies around the world. Global labor shortages of 85.2 million skilled workers are projected by 2030, resulting in lost revenue opportunities of $8.452 trillion – the combined GDP of Germany and Japan.”

These are the headlines of the Korn Ferry Talent Crunch study that are stirring up conversations in boardrooms and making the C-Suite sit up and take notice of the looming problem of talent shortage.

Is it code blue for skill shortage?

Skill shortage has always been an issue on the table for most organizations and it ranges from issues like the adequate supply of skilled people to the availability of people at feasible or specific locations. Whatever the specific need, skill shortage has always been an area of concern. So, why is there a code blue now?

Per the Korn Ferry report, the problem will soon be large enough to not only destabilize individual businesses but also sector powerhouses, such as London as the global financial services center, USA as a technology leader, and China as a manufacturing hub. 

Augmentation - the future of jobs and skills

What does the future hold for jobs and skills? Amid fears like robots taking most of our jobs or current jobs becoming obsolete, a report by The World Economic Forum on the Future of Jobs 2018 presents a more practical perspective on the impending talent crunch. The report takes a closer look at the next four years and finds that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling. Of these, about 35% are expected to require additional training of up to six months, 9% will require reskilling lasting six to 12 months, while 10% will require additional skills training of more than a year.

Analytical thinking and innovation as well as active learning and learning strategies will continue to grow in prominence by 2022 as will skills such as technology design and various forms of technology competency. While technology skills are at one end of the spectrum, the report also points out that ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion, and negotiation will likewise retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility, and complex problem-solving.

The report also talks about the need for a comprehensive ‘augmentation strategy’- “an approach where businesses look to utilize the automation of some job tasks to complement and enhance their human workforces’ comparative strengths.” The premise of augmentation is to make the most of broader value-creating activities that human workers can accomplish as a complement to technology. “By 2022, augmentation of existing jobs through technology may free up workers from the majority of data processing and information search tasks—and may also increasingly support them in high-value tasks such as reasoning and decision-making,” states the report. Augmentation, when done right, has the power to enhance productivity and maximize human potential.

How can L&D help?

The Future of Jobs report outlines four key strategies that companies should focus on in the 2018–2022 business growth period. L&D has a big role to play in each of these strategies. Some of these include:

  • Crafting a sound in-company lifelong learning system 

    Lifelong learning is a mantra that nearly all companies need to adopt to be future-ready. The report states that, “workers will need to have the appropriate skills enabling them to thrive in the workplace of the future and the ability to continue to retrain throughout their lives.” L&D has a big role to play in the 2018-2022 period to focus on long-term L&D strategy and craft lifelong learning systems that allow employees to continuously retrain themselves to learn at the speed of business and economic change.

  • Investing in human capital

    While it may seem that automation will lead to a reduced workforce based on current job profiles, the report finds that more than a third of the companies are planning for new roles that may be required as a result of automation or to enhance productivity.

    A Korn Ferry survey conducted in 2016 found that 67% of CEOs believe technology will be their chief value generator in the future of work. However, the value of human capital cannot be discounted. The successful leverage of technology requires human capital that is skilled to use that technology. For example, IoT can be used to gather enormous amount of data about how people use a product. But, converting that data into insights and making strategic business decisions that convert those insights into value creating actions still requires skilled and experienced humans. 

    Companies therefore need to plan to invest in human capital despite the impending reduction expected due to automation. According to the report, “nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise.” L&D needs to ensure that this new workforce is agile, adequately trained for new roles, and can be reskilled on demand based on an ever-changing skills portfolio.

  • Collaborating with other stakeholders on workforce strategy

    Collaboration is key as L&D organizations look to plan for the near term. L&D will need to work with HR, finance, and senior leadership to garner investments to support a long-term workforce strategy. The report states that the focus should be on “helping those who are displaced repurpose their skills or retrain to acquire new skills and to invest heavily in the development of new agile learners in future workforces by tackling improvements to education and training systems, as well as updating labor policy to match the realities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

    When it comes to future workforce strategy, L&D can be both a driver and an enabler. However, learning and development needs buy in from other functions in the organization to spearhead a new generation of agile learners.

  • A different learning mindset

    Finally, attitude is key when it comes to adapting to change and driving new strategies. Employees will need to develop a mindset of agile learning. This is perhaps the greatest challenge for L&D. L&D departments which are still entrenched in traditional ways of learning will have to first reinvent themselves to offer more engaging and immersive forms of instruction that can seamlessly be embedded into an employee’s routine. Gamification, app-based learning and learning on the go can change employee attitudes towards learning. As learning becomes a habit and entrenched in an organization’s culture, employees can make the shift, as the report states, “from the routines and limits of today’s jobs to new, previously unimagined futures.” L&D needs to be in the driver’s seat – both driving the change in mindset and then embedding the change through specific strategies that enable a culture of agile learning.