As we sail past the one-year anniversary of the first Covid lockdown in many countries, it is a good time to take stock of the ‘new extraordinary’ and to look ahead. What lessons have we learnt to date and what new paths do these reveal for the global HR services sector and wider business community? That’s a big question, below are five factors of change that provide a small part of the answer:
- Structural shifts– The crisis has accelerated structural shifts in the economy. Pre-empting the impact of these shifts on future skills needs will be a big driver of the post-Covid recovery. The supporting role that career management specialists and the wider HR services sector can play on re-skilling and transitions has been a recurring theme of the World Views on the World of Work podcasts. In the words of Asempleo Policy Advisor Marta Lucas “Governments must work with the industry on retraining and active policies that enable people to move between sectors that have been hit hardest to sectors with high demand”.
- A new era of collaboration– The last year has underlined the power of collaboration. Within the HR services sector, this started with the ground-breaking Safely Back to Work Alliance, and was evidenced most recently through the WEC and International Organisations of Employers (IOE) joint policy recommendations for a job-rich recovery. In some countries, the crisis has changed how the sector works with government. Looking ahead, a collaborative ethos will set the tone for building back around a new economic vision that has sustainability, well-being and decent work at its core.
- People-centricity– Over the last year, employers have stepped up how they manage both the physical and mental well-being of the workforce. Enhanced staff engagement is another trend that is set to accelerate, especially as data shows a strong correlation between higher engagement and better organisational performance. A few weeks ago, McKinsey identified nine traits of future-ready companies. Unsurprisingly, recognising the importance and scarcity of talent is flagged as one of the nine. According to McKinsey “top companies recognize that talent is their scarcest form of capital; they create diverse, inclusive, and energizing environments, and match top talent to critical roles to stay ahead of rivals”. This is a great hook for showcasing the business-critical role of recruitment and HR services providers.
- The remote workrevolution – Our hybrid future means equipping workers with the skills and mindset needed to thrive in a new working environment. It also means developing a cadre of managers and leaders with the dexterity and emotional intelligence to energise and unite an atomised workforce. Job descriptions are being re-imagined as we speak; this is just one of the specific areas where the recruitment and HR services sector can provide added value to the employers they work with. This was point picked by APSO CEO Jacqui Ford in the recent podcast: “As businesses grapple with the aftermath of the crisis, the focus is on rethinking how work is done; the staffing and HR services sector can lead the way on innovative workforce solutions”.
- Platform workand the tech re-set – “New technology can be force for good, but policy makers need to ‘guide’ its application to the world of work”. This was the point made by WEC President Bettina Schaller on the recent ILO, IOE and WEC forum on platform work. Speaking on the same webinar, IOE Secretary General Roberto Suarez framed some pressing priorities for government policy, such as “how will platform work impact on under-represented groups and what digital infrastructure and mindset do we need to nurture to ensure new ways of accessing work provide opportunities for all?”. Maintaining focus on the right questions will be essential to finding the right balance of flexibility, opportunity, digital innovation and worker protection in the post-pandemic world.
Above is just a slither of the learnings from the last 12 months. What about the next 12 months, what is the general outlook going forward? The recent PWC survey of over 5,000 CEOs across the globe paints a positive picture, with 76% of CEOs saying they expect the global economy and business environment to improve over the coming year. When asked to prioritise the societal outcomes that business should help deliver, CEOs put the creation of a skilled, educated and adaptable workforce at the top of the list. This will resonate with the 3.3 million working within the global employment and HR services sector who will be playing their part in making this vision a reality.