Davos Agenda

Why investing in talent can pull us through a polycrisis

Multicoloured cut-outs of people on a whiteboard. How can businesses ensure they have the right talent, with the right skills, at the right time?

How can businesses ensure they have the right talent, with the right skills, at the right time? Image: Amtec Photos/Flickr

Denis Machuel
Chief Executive Officer, Adecco Group
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Davos Agenda

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Fair and equitable work is never more important than in times of uncertainty. A sustainable job provides people with a source of security, financial stability and a sense of community.
  • The Adecco Group's research suggests 61% of workers worldwide fear their salary is not high enough to cope with inflation, while 60% believe the green transition will require them to reskill.
  • Organizations need to invest in the labour market as well as their own talent through education opportunities and in collaboration with policymakers to create a more sustainable and resilient world of work.

From the reverberating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to global wars and conflict; from high inflation and sluggish economic growth to increasingly extreme climate events, the world is facing a remarkably diverse range of crises all at the same time.

This “polycrisis” hits just as economies are navigating the disruptions of digital transformation – with technology offering new ways to improve productivity – and the pressure to reduce our impact on the environment.

The result is a fast-changing and challenging landscape for many industries. Talent is their biggest opportunity. People and skills should be at the core when facing the challenges ahead.

Fair and equitable work is never more important than in times of uncertainty. A sustainable job provides people with a source of security, financial stability and a sense of community. That is why governments, employers and individuals must collaboratively build a sustainable future of work for everyone. This means shifting the focus to long-term value creation through people and actively enabling life-long employability and resilience.

Polycrisis concerns

Workers are worried about what the future holds. Our latest research with 30,000 workers reveals that 61% of workers worldwide, for example, fear their salary is not high enough to cope with inflation. Almost half say they are anxious that current geopolitical volatility could have a negative impact on their job.

While workers are worried about what the future holds, employers need the talent to survive the many challenges unfolding at once.
While workers are worried about what the future holds, employers need the talent to survive the many challenges unfolding at once. Image: Adecco Group

But the concern goes both ways – employers need the talent to survive the many challenges unfolding at once. Our data also show that 70% of organizational leaders are equally worried about geopolitical volatility affecting labour markets. In a recent survey of CEOs by Deloitte, 71% expressed concern about how a shortage of labour or skills will impact their business strategy in the next year.

Upending talent scarcity: upskilling

We saw talent scarcity across many job types in 2022. According to an internal survey of Adecco consultants, skilled non-professional roles such as forklift drivers and machine operators are significantly affected. In logistics and e-commerce, 40% of job types are very scarce; in manufacturing, that figure is 53%. Research by Gartner predicts that “labour volatility” will cause a material business loss for two in five organisations by 2025.

Talent scarcity, and a lack of access to the most in-demand skills, will remain a trend in the long term. This keeps our clients up at night: how can they ensure they have the right talent, with the right skills, at the right time over the coming years?

Have you read?

Even before the onset of the polycrisis, the green and digital transitions made it challenging for many companies to plan for their future talent needs. More than a billion workers will need to be upskilled by 2030 as workplaces continually adapt to fast-changing, new possibilities in digital and green technologies.

Our own General Assembly data shows the cost of hiring a new worker can be as much as seven times that of upskilling an existing employee – which suggests a need to shift focus from acquiring new workers to building resilience through retaining and retraining. But how many companies have a talent strategy?

A surprising number of companies don’t yet seem to appreciate the extent to which people are core to staying competitive. Our research suggests that 60% of workers foresee that the transition to the green economy will force them to learn new skills, while a similar proportion of non-desk workers expect automation to make their current skills less relevant. Only 49% say their employer is currently investing effectively in upskilling them.

61% of workers fear their salary is not high enough to cope with inflation. So, investing in talent can be more than a competitive advantage for employers.
Around the world, 61% of workers fear their salary is not high enough to cope with inflation. So, investing in talent can be more than a competitive advantage for employers. Image: Adecco Group

Building a sustainable world of work

Investing in talent can be more than a competitive advantage for employers. I believe it’s our social responsibility to provide guidance, training and opportunities for workers to gain the right skills. Organizations need to invest in the labour market as well as their own workforce through education opportunities and in collaboration with policymakers.

The world of work, after all, is about more than just jobs – it’s a platform that connects governments, regulators, business leaders and individuals. It is time to think about long-term value creation and resilience, working together to grow our pipelines of talent and skills and enable better frameworks for sustainable employment. This is the only way to protect people’s employability as some jobs disappear and others are created.

Developing a sustainable world of work requires collaboration, understanding and mapping skills, investing in education and upskilling, and ensuring fair pay and decent working conditions. Employers and governments must invest in creating the environment – the sustainable workplace; while workers themselves must actively take advantage of that environment and keep their skills updated, contributing to creating a more sustainable world.

Now more than ever, people are the most crucial asset to help solve the global challenges facing societies.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Davos AgendaBusinessFuture of Work
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