The World Economic Forum’s Global Jobs Outlook session in Davos today heard that employers need to revolutionise their cultures and confront demographic challenges if they are to tackle a lack of skills in key sectors.
Hisayuki Idekoba, president and CEO of Recruit Holdings, the Japanese firm that owns job search engine Indeed and the employer review site Glassdoor, said that in countries such as the US the effects of an ageing population were already being seen with a 3% reduction in the working population over the next 10 years. A quarter of workers were over 55 years old in the US, he added.
He argued that there were three key challenges for employers: the ageing workforce, the rapid changes in attitude towards work-life balance and changes in immigration and migration.
“People love flexibility and remote work,” Idekoba said. “There are now five times as many job searches for jobs with remote work options.”
As a result it was very difficult to recruit sufficiently into healthcare and construction jobs where flexibility was not an option. “The attitude to work-life balance has been changing in the younger generation,” he added.
The workforce is much more fluid … candidates and employees don’t want to be told what their career should look like” – Aiman Ezzat, Capgemini
Large immigration surpluses (beneficial economic indicators stemming from immigration) were being seen in developed countries, he said, but now countries like the US, and the UK, were limiting immigration and the supply of skills. To prevent this causing damage to sectors, these countries were going to have to work much harder to unlock people’s potential, especially when it comes to technology. Meanwhile, tech would keep disrupting jobs, he said.
One aspect of recruitment Idekoba said he’d like to see change was the amount of time it took to switch jobs. “It takes 15 weeks to get a new job on average, but if people don’t have work for 12 weeks, 40% of people will fall below poverty line. So it is crucial to help people find jobs faster and easier.”
For Aiman Ezzat, CEO of the Capgemini Group, the pandemic, coupled with the rapid emergence of the green economy, had fuelled demand for digitalisation across the board.
A massive disconnect in supply and demand was inhibiting the growth of the tech sector where competition for skills was enormous. This disconnect meant that crucial projects were having to be put on hold because of the lack of skills, Ezzat said.
“We have increased our workforce by 55,000 globally in last 12 months but it is not enough. We have let schemes go by because there are not the skills to pursue them,” said Ezzat.
“There must be more upskilling and training. Companies are not committing enough to investing in upskilling. Some companies are doing this – one big aerospace firm in Europe has taken 600 workers and are retraining them in data and digital skills.”
Ezzat said training needed to be rethought. “We have to get out of the idea that technology requires engineering degrees. we need short courses to allow people to do these things. Courses no longer than two years. We need apprenticeships like those of the industrial revolution. We need cyber, connectivity, cloud specialists, data, software engineers … We cannot find these people with a technology background so we need find people with basic skills and train them.”
Far more public-private collaboration is needed, he said, citing how in the Netherlands private companies validated public training courses. “There needs to be a massive reskilling. I know we have to get to 20 million digital workers by 2030 but I promise you it is not enough – we need a lot more.”
The panel agreed that companies needed to think differently about talent. “You need to recruit the talent not the people,” said Ezzat. “The workforce is much more fluid … candidates and employees don’t want to be told what their career should look like.” He said many did not want to work for a large company but they are interested in some projects. “So we have to attract people to get the work done with much more flexibility. Attrition rates will increase because people are interested in certain projects not the whole company. The workforce has completely changed. We need a lot more empathy and an enabling culture; less direction and telling them what to do. It’s a complete evolution.”
He added that borders were no impediment to talent. “Today borders don’t matter – the geographic location doesn’t matter. We are heading to a totally globalised labour market. We are hiring from everywhere. I don’t care where people are.”
Nicolas Schmit, European commissioner for jobs and social rights, agreed with Ezzat that “we need to alter our education system to meet the new needs of the labour market.”
He said he was confident that digital advances would not lead to a world without work, rather they created new jobs while removing other jobs.
Although he was not in favour of a minimum universal income, he said the reskilling drive could lead to some income provision as people wouldn’t commit to it without support as the cost of living crisis escalated.
While agreeing with Ezzat on the need for upskilling, Schmit and Idekoba also said the challenge of traditional, non-flexible work also needed to be faced. Both said the pandemic had taught us to value essential roles far more. The ageing population meant we needed more care workers for example. There was also a need for “local” skills, plumbers, builders, and teachers. “It’s a question of value in society,” said Schmit, and far more emphasis needed to be placed by governments and businesses on the importance of apprenticeships. These were too often regarded as not as good as academic achievement. This needed reversing.
We need to alter our education system to meet the new needs of the labour market. This is a big issue” – Nicolas Schmit, European Commisson
The panel said that employers had to recognise that jobseekers were now far more empowered. Idekoba said that pre-pandemic only 4% of employers in the US disclosed salary. But this was changing rapidly as the demand for transparency grew. “We need to revalue essential workers – Covid has shown how crucial they are,” he said, calling on healthcare and construction sectors to pay staff more and improve their workplaces.
Ezzat reflected that for this to happen, diversity and inclusion was fundamental. Businesses must be purpose-driven, understand their place in society, care for and enable people. “Transparency, authenticity, diversity are vital to companies now to attract and retain staff.”
Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Nigeria’s minister of finance, budget and national planning, brought a different perspective to proceedings, explaining how much her country’s employment situation differed from that in Europe and the US. With a much younger population, unemployment in Nigeria was much higher than in the West, she said. But smaller enterprises and entrepreneurialism stemming from the adoption of digital technologies had created a new business infrastructure that the government was supporting with low cost loans. She said she was also exploring how to retain more healthcare workers, who were leaving the country “in droves”. “We have to upgrade their pay and improve their work environment including better technology and tools for their work,” she said.
Asked what the definition of a good job was, Idekoba simply said it was whatever the person felt passionate about, adding that some of the most dedicated and satisfied workers he had met were working as chefs.