Organizations must reinvent, redefine and refresh if they are to retain talent for the future, writes Camelia Ram
The pervasive shift from product to service has changed the world. Today, companies are racing each other to capture the imagination of customers by configuring combinations of products that address their specific challenges. Interactivity, connectivity, on-demand content and ongoing relationships – underpinned by technology – are hallmarks of today’s service-driven economy.
Tomorrow’s workers, who have grown up in an ‘always on’ society, have come to expect the same freedom and flexibility in their professional lives that they enjoy in their personal lives. Labour market dynamics, career paths and competition for talent continue to evolve in myriad ways. Increasingly, the mechanisms for attracting, acquiring, retaining, developing and promoting talent must be linked by a compelling narrative that goes beyond mere affiliation with the organization’s brand and its values.
So what are the key themes that matter to the workforce of the future? What are the crucial messages that organizations must advance to incoming and outgoing talent? For individuals, adapting your mindset to reinvent and redefine your role – supported by a refreshing of your skills as technology transforms the talent landscape – will bring success. For organizations, supporting individuals and teams on this journey will go a long way to sustaining and building a resilient talent pipeline.
From robotics and artificial intelligence to genome sequencing and wearable technology, today’s generation of workers can expect to live longer and work in environments where tasks requiring human intervention will constantly evolve. With around 30% of the US and European working population employed as free agents, flexible-working options and remote monitoring are increasingly mainstream.
The oil industry for example, is struggling to shed its reputation as an old and dirty industry, especially when compared to its competitors from the renewable energy sector. Shell recently launched an oilfield robot that can carry out safety checks under the control of a human operator sitting hundreds of miles away, replacing some more dangerous and unpleasant frontline work.
While such developments go some way to meeting the expectation of a touchscreen working environment, flexibility over one’s career also matters. As workers assume greater responsibility for their careers, employers who support the broader needs of employees to explore varying roles, take career breaks to pursue a personal passion, live in other places, and build other skills will be better placed to retain their talent over time.
There is a trend towards repetitive, rules-based, time-bound work being replaced by automated processes, which can be cheaper and more reliable than human labour. This can lead to a bifurcation in the work that humans do: either low-skilled jobs not amenable to automation –such as handling complex customer queries; or high-skilled jobs – such as partnering to develop new products, systems or processes.
Addressing this requires a comprehensive, institutionalized career path that allows professionals to pick up experience across teams. This means creating an environment that encourages employees to be flexible and open to change. For example, finance and HR professionals are increasingly being called on to be consultants to the business. This means developing skills to identify stakeholders, frame the business challenge, recommend solutions, and make things happen in innovative ways.
Increased connectivity of products and services means employees need to understand how their role connects to delivery today as well as innovation for tomorrow. Examples, such as Boeing’s Starliner space shoe being designed by Reebok, and BMW’s collaboration with Intel on driverless cars, highlight the surprising partnerships that may develop as businesses evolve their propositions. The latest Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) shows that intense ‘connectedness’ between governments, businesses and schools is a common trait of talent-winning countries and cities, and collaboration is the keyword for their leaders.
Moreover, technology means that the education we receive today is unlikely to be relevant over a lifetime. The changing nature of skills, capabilities and behaviours will mean that experiential interventions will help keep pace with evolving technology. Tools that proactively enhance workforce productivity and performance will be increasingly valuable. Academic and professional qualifications will come to be valued most for the foundation they lay for professionals to step into a range of business roles.
In with the new
The familiar pattern of education, a job for life, followed by retirement, is dying. It is being replaced by the concept of age and activity being disconnected, where a fearless approach to changing roles and a focus on balance dominates. This multi-stage life, enabled by technological developments in health, education, retail and telecommunications, poses opportunities and challenges for the nature of work, working patterns, career ambitions and motivations. The need to reinvent, redefine and refresh one’s skills and behaviours over time emphasizes the need for organizations to have clarity on the critical skills for the future, and how they will intertwine to deliver business objectives. Leveraging internal and external data about employees can enable an evolutionary view of the barriers to and enablers of high performance, how career paths are changing, and emerging best practices on adopting different experiences inside or outside an organization. This can provide the basis for a powerful narrative on how an organization sources, retains and develops its talent.