Futureproofing the workforce

Global labour markets are less elastic today than they once were – they recover more slowly and produce growing inequality.

The recession and protracted, uneven recovery altered global markets. Many expected that as the recession subsided, the labour market would return to business as usual – but that hasn’t happened.

A perfect storm of structural and cyclical forces – from shifting demographics and rapid globalisation to technological revolution – has created a highly uncertain business environment and knocked labour markets out of sync.

The jobs market is split between the ‘haves’ – those with sought-after talent who are in a strong bargaining position and able to manage their own careers; and the ‘have nots’ – those without in-demand skills, who feel increasingly disposable and marginalised. And as industries rapidly evolve, jobs will be created and displaced resulting in an ever more complex labour market in terms of both supply and demand.

It’s a new age of work – and employers need to re-evaluate their workforce management strategies and seek alternative workforce models to drive greater productivity.

Long-term talent strategies

Chris Gray, Managing Director of Manpower UK, said: “The recession may be in the rear-view mirror, but in many respects the recession mentality still exists.

“For too long, employers have been reactive with their hiring – recruiting as and when someone is needed in a quite transactional manner. In this new world of work, taking a long-term view of business and talent strategies will be the key to success.

“Whilst a ‘just-in-time’ approach to hiring can often be a business requirement, it certainly shouldn’t be allowed to become the norm. Instead, future business success relies on the ability to effectively forecast the talent that will be required to achieve business goals, and where this talent will be found or developed.

“That’s why at Manpower we’re helping businesses move away from approaching recruitment reactively. Instead, we’re designing and delivering long-term workforce planning that creates strong alignment between business and workforce strategy. Going forward, this deliberate and purposeful approach is going to be crucial.”

Investing in skills

Futureproofing the workforce also requires employers to readdress their investment in skills.

Chris continued: “Employers who boast a highly skilled workforce can do more, exploit higher margins, and harness new business opportunities in the short and long-term – in turn improving labour market productivity.

“Yet, technology is evolving faster than ever; changing the skills needed for jobs, and shortening the life cycle of those skills.

“Investment is vital. Both the Government and businesses have made a good start in increasing investment in skills, but there’s more work to do – both in ensuring the right training and development is in place to make the workforce job-ready, and ensuring it’s freely available to those who need it.

“The ‘right’ person for a particular job is becoming much harder to find, so flexibility with skills and development is also important. Employers need to recalibrate their mind-sets to consider candidates who may not have all the specific skills a job requires, but whose skill gaps can be filled. We call this the ‘teachable fit’, where employers identify skills that can migrate across industries or be developed with relative ease, and then focus their training and development efforts on filling any gaps.”

At Manpower, we help businesses across the UK find people who have the skills required to power their business from day one, and we support thousands of people every day to improve their skills in the workforce. Alongside readdressing investment in skills, employers should also ensure comprehensive, strategic workforce planning is adopted across the entire organisation.

Chris concluded: “We help many organisations find talent and skills to meet the needs of their business today but we also help many organisations prepare for the needs of tomorrow.

“The journey to improved productivity requires planning and navigation; the puzzle will continue to evolve, but talent and skills will continue to be at the centre of future success. Our experiences with organisations across multiple sectors and geographies, as well as a variety of workforce cultures and skills, means we can provide a unique and privileged perspective that adds real value to planning and navigation at the start of the journey – as well as guidance and support during the journey itself.”