In his recent World Employment Conference address, ILO Director-General Gilbert F Houngbo issued this rallying call to the massed ranks of the global HR services sector: “We must ensure that digitalisation works for all.” The sheer cadence of technology-driven change means that this is no easy task. But ensuring better harmony between the supply and demand of skills in this digital age is one crucial way forward. And there is a note of optimism regarding employment experts’ role in bringing this together.
The lack of technical skills is commonly referenced as one of the most significant barriers to digital evolution. Here are five movements of positive change that the HR services sector can contribute to in the months and years ahead:
- Recognizing the sheer size of the skills challenge– With 30% of jobs likely to be automated by 2030, the practical insight of employment experts has never been more critical. Will we ever fully bridge the skills gap, or is the technology just moving too fast? Discussions at the Brussels conference laid down a marker: Being clear on the sheer size of the challenge ahead is a vital starting point. Sami Eltom, EMEA Director at General Assembly, flagged data showing 90% of employers concerned that they won’t meet hiring needs for technical roles. And the European Commission’s Michael Horgan argued that “one of the biggest challenges linked to digital skills is finding the trainers and tutors we need to teach people.” Finding solutions to these and other barriers is a shared mission.
- Being a voice on skills policy – Employment and HR services experts have a crucial role to play in working with education experts and policymakers to inform the skills agenda on a national and – increasingly – regional level. The challenge lies in creating consensus and bringing different parties together. In the words of WEC President Bettina Schaller: “The HR services industry connects daily with thousands of workers, academics, innovators and business leaders; It is uniquely placed to understand the challenges and opportunities that digitalisation offers and to play a convening role.”
- Creating short-term skills solutions for employers – creating long-term solutions to skills matches through better skills and education policy will remain a priority. Still, for many employers, there is an absolute urgency in addressing the skills and staff they need to compete and thrive. This is where the HR services industry is stepping up and providing immediate solutions, for example, through temporary and contract placements and by taking the lead on reskilling and career management.
- Understanding the skills needs of leaders….– In this new digital landscape, business leaders will only remain relevant if they can facilitate a culture of change and innovation. Working with business leaders to manage change – and attract the type of staff needed to deliver ongoing workplace evolution – is a further opportunity for the global HR services industry to play a leadership role in this digital age.
- … and the skills needs of recruitment and HR services professionals– “Recruiting will drive business critical changes over the coming years.” Adam Hawkins, Head of Staffing at LinkedIn, framed the size of the prize and opportunities ahead for the HR services sector at the recent Brussels conference. 87% of recruitment professionals say their work has become more strategic over the past year. This underlines the opportunity for recruiters and HR services professionals to ramp up their strategic impact by focusing on their own communication and relationship-building skills.
Orchestrating digitalisation requires policymakers, business leaders and employment experts to be in tune. And nowhere is this more important than in identifying and nurturing the skills needed in a digital age. Discussions at the recent Brussels conference created a perfect pitch; the global HR services sectors has picked up the conductor’s baton!