Jobs and the Future of Work

How communities can become the currency for businesses to build skills

A group of people standing in front of a building: People learn skills and ideas within communities that are impossible to replicate elsewhere.

People learn skills and ideas within communities that are impossible to replicate elsewhere. Image: Unsplash/Desole Lanre-Ologun

Lady Mariéme Jamme
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, iamtheCODE
Bhushan Sethi
Strategy&, Principal, PwC, US
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Jobs and Skills

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  • We are all interconnected and interdependent, global citizens and part of bigger communities.
  • Vital skills are learned within community spaces, which businesses could harness to prepare them for future workplace realities.
  • While a sense of community has been lost through the changing digital landscape and amid global crises, here's how we can rediscover community spaces and help them thrive.

The African philosophy “Ubuntu,” as explained by Nelson Mandela, roughly translates as “I am because you are.” In other words, I am nobody without you, and you are nobody without me.

It is the ultimate expression of humanity and a brilliantly simple and evocative way of expressing an idea that we are all in danger of forgetting – that, as humans, we are all interconnected and interdependent. We are all part of something bigger than us as individuals; without that sense of community and global citizenship, we lose something vital of ourselves.

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From the earliest times, communities have offered connection and collaboration, intercultural understanding, protection and a sense of belonging. They are spaces where skills are nurtured and valued, active listening takes place, knowledge and experience are shared and exchanged, and concepts of inclusivity, equality and fairness are instilled. People grow to become who they hope to be within communities; furthermore, community and connection lie at the heart of being human.

Now, as technology has advanced, communities have evolved from physical and local to virtual or online and can stretch worldwide. Importantly, they bring people together to share and recognize our humanity. People learn skills and ideas within communities that are impossible to replicate elsewhere – collaboration, trust, citizenship, and a sense of shared mission and vision. Communities give people what the Japanese call “ikigai” – a sense of purpose and meaning. What’s more, they are now currencies and we will be able to measure their impact in the future.

Building future leaders

But communities are not just good for individuals; they also benefit businesses. That’s because communities are an excellent place for businesses to seek the skills and talent they need to fill the jobs of the future. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, key skills companies need to operate effectively include leadership, dependability, resilience, empathy and active listening – all of which are naturally developed and nurtured within a community.

At a time when businesses increasingly need to think creatively and seek alternative ways of sourcing the skills they need, communities provide an immensely valuable resource that can transform their organization. Take the refugee who has built a new life in a completely unfamiliar place after overcoming immense adversity – they have developed skills of resilience, determination and perseverance that offer great value in the workplace.

Community values also enable businesses to rethink how they evaluate the skills and talent they need. Today we continue to face rising skills inequity, which leads to greater income inequality and the possibility of community members being left behind. PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023 highlighted this:

“Fully 60% of workers with specialist training say they have a clear sense of how the skills required to do their job will change in the next five years, compared with only 20% of those whose jobs don’t require specialized training”.

Taking a Skills First approach to hiring, whereby relevant or transferable skills are considered, as opposed to qualifications or experience, will reduce these inequities over time.

We are being pulled apart from each other without even realizing it.

Lady Mariéme Jamme, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, iamtheCODE | Bhushan Sethi, Strategy & Principal, PwC

Rethinking skills

Communities provide a potential talent pool and a set of values that can shape the framework for forward-thinking businesses, such as a sense of belonging, trust and accountability. Having these values embedded into an organization can help immensely when tackling challenges such as climate change, sustainability and social inclusion.

However, the advent of social media and the disruption caused by global crises has overshadowed the vital role communities play. We live through a time of increasing polarization, division, and pulling up drawbridges and “them and us.” We are being pulled apart from each other without even realizing it.

Social media may seem to keep us connected but something greater may be lost as a result – shared experience, humanity, empathy and collaboration. Before social media, people would gather under baobab trees in regions of Africa, for example, in market squares and other communal places, to share conversations and experiences and find consensus. Those experiences are hard to replace with online chats and heart-shaped emojis.

The good news is we can rediscover this sense of community. Just as teenagers reconnect after a summer without their smartphones at camp, we still have time to acknowledge the value of communities and what they add to our world.

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It’s thus time for a new consciousness about the importance of bringing communities together and helping them to thrive, whether local communities where people live, work and play or virtual communities where people share ideas and a sense of common purpose and identity.

Because the more we unite as a community, the better able we are to solve the world’s most pressing issues. In particular, businesses must now take action and centre community in their quest for talent and skill. Doing so will drive them forward and create a better world where happiness and purpose can collide.

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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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