Category Archives: training

CIOs Value Experience Over College

collegeIf you’re in the tech field and still struggling to pay off those hefty loan payments for your Ivy League degree, the following will not make you feel better: A new survey from Robert Half Technology finds that 71 percent of chief information officers prioritize skills and experience over college degrees when making hiring decisions, while only 5 percent say they’re heavily influenced by a job candidate’s impressive alma mater.

The survey is based on more than 2,400 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies. The CIOs were asked “When evaluating a candidate for an IT position, what value do you place on the prestige of their college or university?” Seventy one percent chose the response “I place more weight on the skills and experience than on whether or not a candidate attended college/university.”

Technology is not the only field that appears to value experience over a sheepskin: A recent Glassdoor survey of 2,059 adults finds that 72 of them believe specialized training to acquire specific skills is more valuable than a degree in the workplace, as my colleague Mark McGraw noted.

“We see [organizations] placing less emphasis on the academic credentials, and working harder to better identify the skills and experience that are needed within the company,” Glassdoor’s Rusty Rueff told McGraw.

Organizations have viewed college degrees as a way to identify candidates whom they believe have the drive and willpower necessary for success, to the point of requiring degrees for positions that previously didn’t require them. But now, perhaps, the pendulum is beginning to swing in the  other direction.

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Streamlining the Workforce Development System

You can mark July 9 down in your books: Lawmakers from both parties in Washington found something they could agree on!

496666235In case you missed it, Congress passed on Wednesday the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, which revamps the nation’s workplace development program. The bill passed in the House by an overwhelming margin, 415 to 6, and is now on its way to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. (It passed in the Senate on June 25 by a 95 to 3 vote.)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez issued the following statement regarding the passage …

Democrats and Republicans have come together on a bill that is good for workers, employers and the economy as a whole. It will help more people succeed in 21st century jobs and punch their ticket to the middle class. And it will help businesses hire the world-class, highly-skilled workforce required to compete successfully in the global economy.

“WIOA improves the workforce system, aligning it with regional economies and strengthening the network of about 2,500 American Job Centers, to deliver more comprehensive services to workers, job seekers and employers. The bill will build closer ties among key workforce partners—business leaders, workforce boards, labor unions, community colleges and non-profits, and state and local officials—as we strive for a more job-driven approach to training and skills development.”

As we reported in a June 30 story posted on HREOnline.com, the law aims to streamline the workforce development system by:

  •  Eliminating 15 existing programs.
  •  Applying a single set of outcome metrics to every federal workforce program under the Act.
  •  Creating smaller, nimbler and more strategic state and local workforce development boards.
  •  Integrating intake, case management and reporting systems while strengthening evaluations.
  •  Eliminating the “sequence of services” and allowing local areas to better meet the unique needs of individuals.

The legislation—a compromise between the SKILLS Act (which passed in the House last year) and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013—was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, which cited as positives the bill’s focus on “the continued leadership role of business, the clear language that promotes alignment of investments in education and training, and the increasing focus on outcomes.”

Of course, now the hard part begins. As James J. Parks, an attorney with Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss, noted in our June 30 piece, “The problem you always have when you change anything in the government is the bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is a self-sustaining animal.”

But that said, there’s no denying that any effort to streamline the nation’s workforce programs and remove some of the much-dreaded inherent red tape should be viewed by the HR community as a good thing.

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It Appears Leaders are STILL Behaving Badly

Despite the rhetoric, concern and attention paid to the need for more effective leaders and managers over the last decade — including in the pages of HRE and 467703295-- bad manageron its websites — the latest indication from Bruce Tulgan at Rainmaker Thinking Inc. is they’re about as ineffective as ever.

Tulgan calls it the “under-management epidemic” and says “today’s workplace is afflicted” with it. He defines the epidemic as “a condition in which a leader with supervisory authority fails to provide, regularly and consistently, any employee directly subject to that authority with the ‘management basics.’ ”

And those he defines as: 1) clear statements of broad performance requirements and specific expectations, 2) support and guidance regarding resources necessary to meet requirements and expectations, 3) accurate monitoring, measuring and documentation of the individual’s actual performance, 4) regular candid feedback about the individual’s actual performance, and 5) rewards and detriments allocated and distributed in proportion to actual performance.

Here’s a more detailed description from Tulgan, in The Stubborn and Persistent Under-Management Epidemic (linked above), of just how bad this “under-management” can be:

We find that the vast majority of managers spend an inordinate percentage of their ‘management time’ in what we call, ‘firefighting mode,’ solving one urgent problem after another — usually problems that could have been avoided with better planning or identified and solved more easily at an earlier point. When not in ‘firefighting mode,’ these managers prioritize ‘catching up’ on their other work and their management practices take a back seat, defaulting to a mode we call, ‘managing on autopilot,’ in which they communicate with their direct reports mostly in low-structure, low-substance conversations punctuated by way too many mediocre meetings and way too many emails. As a result of ‘managing on autopilot,’ unnecessary urgent problems occur or small problems go unnoticed and thus grow more serious or urgent. Then the manager gets pulled back into ‘firefighting mode.’ Most managers don’t realize they are stuck in a vicious cycle.”

Worse still, Rainmaker actually revealed this cycle 10 years ago in its inaugural study on the subject, yet “our ongoing research shows that under-management has not improved” since then, Tulgan writes. “One important and fascinating new finding shows that, while nine out of 10 managers are, in fact, under-managing, most of them don’t know it! Five out of 10 managers think they are doing an ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ job … .”

Less than a year ago, I spoke with Richard Wellins, senior vice president of Bridgeville, Pa.-based Development Dimensions International, about a leadership report DDI had just put out with no more good news than Rainmaker’s. (Here’s that news analysis.)

That study, Driving Workplace Performance through High-Quality Conversations: What Leaders Must Do Every Day to Be Effective, taken from a meta-analysis of DDI’s assessment data from close to 4,000 leaders worldwide, found most front-line leaders lack the fundamental interaction skills and behaviors required to be effective leaders. And senior leaders, it found, are even worse

There too, business leadership seems to be way too knee-jerk, with 90 percent of executives acting before checking their understanding of an issue and being ineffective at inviting ideas from others and facilitating effective conversations to build relationships and get work done

“Leadership really is a series of conversations,” Wellins told me. “The quality of that interaction accounts for a large variance of good or bad leadership,” yet few employers really understand that and hire, develop and reward their leaders accordingly.

I wish I could sign off here with a solution to all this. Maybe next year. Hopefully not 10 years from now.

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Lessons from Xerox’s Succession Experience

When Ursula Burns took the reins at Xerox Corp. in 2009, succeeding then CEO Anne Mulcahy, she became the first woman in Fortune 500 history to succeed another woman as CEO. She also became the first black women to lead a Fortune 500 company.

478242399Former Xerox CHRO Pat Nazemetz shared the first informational tidbit during her compact 20-minute presentation on Xerox’ CEO-succession story during day two of the 2014 i4cp Conference in Scottsdale.

Of course, neither of these two points about the Mulcahy-Burns succession story is terribly surprising. The CEO position continues to be male-dominated at Fortune 500 companies. Hopefully, that will change someday; but for now, I suppose I’ll just tuck these two facts away in case I ever become a contestant on Jeopardy. (Don’t hold your breath.)

Nazemetz left Xerox in 2011 and went on to launch her own consulting firm – NAZ DEC LLC. Her LinkedIn profile notes that she held the top HR role at Xerox through four CEOs.

As far as Nazemetz is concerned, succession should be HR’s “core competency.” At the end of the day, she said, “it’s what HR needs to be good at.”

Nazemetz, who described the Mulcahy-Burns succession as the capstone of her HR career, went on to detail a few of the lessons she learned along the way, including:

  • Don’t leave talent to chance. “We were very lucky at Xerox. We had two women leaders who didn’t leak out of our pipeline,” she said, adding that she realizes it’s not likely to happen ever again.
  •  Make time your ally and not your adversary. CEO succession should always be in play and the best boards are always thinking about it, she said. (Nazemetz noted that HR needs to be the choreographer of the process and transition, making sure that all of the pieces come together.
  • Ensuring an effective transition takes every skill and capability HR leaders have available to them. “You need to be a trusted adviser,” she said. “You need to be a translator, communicator and mirror.” By mirror, she means HR needs to be able to hold up the mirror to both the CEO who’s leaving and the incoming CEO and let them know how the transition is impacting the organization.

Nazemetz told the audience that Xerox learned some tough and memorable lessons when it brought in an outsider to lead the organization. Recognizing its error, she said, the board eventually promoted Mulcahy, who led a dramatic transformation at the company. (Xerox, Nazemetz said, was flirting with bankruptcy at the time.)

As a result of her experiences with succession, Nazemetz said she embraced the goal of having three successors for every key position at Xerox.

Nazemetz’ talk was preceded by another 20-minute presentation on accelerated development at Shell Oil Co.

Delivered by Michael Killingsworth, vice president of learning and organizational effectiveness for Shell’s Upstream Americas business, the talk touched on a yet-to-be-publicized (yes, you’re hearing it here first) facility slated to go live in September that’s aimed at speeding the training and development of offshore workers.

According to Killingsworth, it’s a first-of-its-kind facility in the oil industry. Plans, he said, are to officially publicize the new center later this year.

Currently, Killingsworth said, it takes two years to prepare workers so they can do their jobs on these offshore platforms. But once Shell’s new facility opens at the Robert Training and Conference Center one hour north of New Orleans, the time it takes to ready these workers will be trimmed to just six months.

The initiative is known as BOOST (Basic Operations Offshore Skills Training) and will enable Shell to train workers on how to do their jobs at these offshore facilities without leaving land.

In effect, Killingsworth said, Shell will be using simulators to create an offshore platform onshore. (Sounds similar to the way astronauts are trained, right?)

“Once they’ve finished their six months,” he said, “[trainees will] have everything they need to receive certification, and all of the qualifications they’ll need to go out on the platform and begin to work.”

Trainees in the program will rotate between two weeks on the simulated platform and two weeks off.  During the last month of the training, they will go through simulated incidents that they will have to react to.

Killingsworth didn’t share what the facility will cost Shell, but I have to think the global oil giant has performed a cost-reward analysis on the initiative and concluded the time-savings make it well worth the expense.

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Transforming Learning Through Mobile

Of course, it only seems natural that Qualcomm, which produces the chips used in mobile devices, would be leading the way in the move to mobile learning.

168769841During yesterday’s opening-day morning keynote at i4cp’s 2014 Conference at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Tamar Elkeles, vice president of learning and organizational development at Qualcomm, shared some of the ways Qualcomm (which has 31,000 people around the world) is applying learning to mobile devices.

Elkeles advised those attending the conference not to get left behind. “Mobile is not a fad,” she said. “It’s changing how we live, how we work and how we play.” (In the world of learning, Elkeles’ insight and advice carries a lot of weight.)

As the next generation of workers enters the workforce, Elkeles said, they’re not going to put up with sitting through a training class. They’ll be entering the workforce having done everything on mobile. So they’re going to expect that’s how learning is going to occur at any employer they work for.

One interesting stat she shared: Ten percent of those between ages 0 and 1 are using mobile devices. That’s right, 0 and 1. True, she said, they may not know how to read yet. But, holding up a single finger, Elkeles explained that’s all one needs to navigate the world of mobility, even if it’s limited to launching a Disney YouTube video.

Another stat she shared: By 2015, more than 300 million pre-K-through-12 school children will have mobile devices.

Referring to those now entering the workforce as the App Generation, Elkeles said these workers are beginning to transform the way Qualcomm thinks about its culture. Today, it’s one-size-fits-one, with people wanting their information right away.

What’s the best way people go about getting information these days? Google Search, she said. “You don’t go to the HR person. You don’t go to the policy manual. You go to search.”

In light of that, Elkeles added, Qualcomm has eliminated thousands of webpages that can now be accessed on search.

Elkeles told attendees she doesn’t know where things are going, but “we’re definitely at the beginning of something that’s big, and we know it’s going to be very disruptive.”

Apps represent the future of learning at Qualcomm, particularly for areas such as:

  • Employee orientation. (Let them download the app, before they’ve even started.)
  • Leadership development. “Your executives are mobile employees anyway,” Elkeles said.
  • Mandatory training. (Every two years, a certain number of folks at Qualcomm have to get recertified on sexual-harassment training — so by putting the training on a mobile device, they can now do it at the airport.)
  • Audio/language training. Elkeles cited the example of Café Coffee Day, an Indian coffee chain that uses an audio app to teach baristas English-language skills.

Elkeles walked attendees through a few of the apps Qualcomm has created, ranging from the entertaining (where an employee can create a photo image that shows him or her standing next to the company’s CEO) to the bit-more-practical (and also the most popular) Qmap, which enables employees to find their way around Qualcomm’s main campus and other global facilities.

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DOL Budget Emphasizes Enforcement

President ObamaThe U.S. Department of Labor has released the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request, which seems to sharpen the DOL’s focus on enforcing federal employment and labor regulations.

The release comes just weeks after a State of the Union Address in which President Barack Obama stressed, among other things, the need to create more jobs and help workers develop the skills they need to fill them. In a DOL statement, the department outlines plans to do that and more.

The DOL describes the budget as including “funding and reforms that will better prepare workers for jobs; protect their wages, working conditions and safety; provide a safety net for those who lose their jobs or are hurt on the job; and promote secure retirements.”

For example, the fiscal year 2015 budget aims to:

• Support reforms to improve training and employment programs, in an effort to help workers gain skills and return to work more quickly.

• Create additional jobs and careers by catalyzing new partnerships between community colleges and employers. The Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative includes $1.5 billion in 2015 to support a four-year, $6 billion community college job-driven training fund to launch new training programs and apprenticeships designed to prepare participants for in-demand jobs and careers.

• Reach the long-term unemployed by proposing mandatory funding for a Job-Driven Training for Youth and the Long-Term Unemployed Initiative, consisting of programs targeted at allowing individuals to continue receiving unemployment insurance benefits while participating in short-term work placements.

The DOL also announced significant investments to be made in the department’s worker protection agencies, such as:

• nearly $14 million to combat the misclassification of workers as independent contractors;

• $565 million for OSHA to foster employer compliance with safety and health regulations and inspect hazardous workplaces, as well as strengthening its protection of whistleblowers against retaliation for reporting unsafe and unscrupulous practices; and

• a $41 million increase for the Wage and Hour division, to ensure workers receive appropriate wages and overtime pay.

Although many of the proposals contained in the budget “are more aspirational than [predictive of] actual policy changes, they do provide insight into what the agencies are prioritizing for the coming year,” says Ben Huggett, a Philadelphia-based attorney with employment and labor law firm Littler.

For employers and HR, this year’s DOL budget is most notable in that it “reflects the agency’s continued emphasis on enforcement,” says Huggett.

The proposal, he says, would grant the DOL $11.8 billion in discretionary funding, “much of which would support the enforcement of wage and hour, worker misclassification, whistleblower and employment safety laws.”

The boost to the Wage and Hour division is one of the “most significant and substantive proposals” put forth in the 2015 budget, he adds.

“This funding increase is in large part to pay for an additional 300 WHD investigators who would use risk-based approaches to target the industries and employers most likely to break the law.”

Huggett also singled out the possibility of a $13 million budget increase for OSHA in 2015 (bringing its total budget to $565 million) as indicative of the DOL’s commitment to enforcement.

“Approximately $21 million of this allocation would be used to enforce the various whistleblower statutes under OSHA’s authority,” he says. “When combined with last year’s rollout of an electronic web-based complaint form, it is clear that OSHA’s administration of the 22 different whistleblower statutes will continue to be a significant emphasis for the agency.”

The budget request will likely encounter criticism in Congress, where a number of proposals are likely to be rejected or modified, says Huggett.

Nevertheless, he adds, the budget request “confirms that employers can expect the aggressive enforcement of federal employment and labor laws to continue.”

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The Decline of Workplace Misconduct

workplace misconductThe good news coming from a recent Ethics Resource Center study? Corporate misconduct seems to be on the wane, overall.

The not-so-good news? A majority of the misdeeds that are occurring in the workplace are committed by those the organization counts on to set an example for employees to follow.

The Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit research organization’s eighth National Business Ethics Survey finds 41 percent of 6,400 U.S. employees reporting they observed misconduct in 2013; down from 55 percent in 2007. And only 9 percent of employees said they felt pressure to compromise their ethical standards in 2013, compared to 13 percent who said the same in 2011, the last time the ERC conducted its business ethics survey.

The shrinking number of employees witnessing transgressions at work implies a connection between fewer cases of misconduct and solid ethics training, along with a strong culture, said ERC President Patricia J. Harned, in a statement.

The numbers indicate as much, with the percentage of companies reporting a “strong” or “strong-leaning” ethics culture increasing to 66 percent in 2013, up from 60 percent in 2011. In addition, 81 percent of companies provided ethics training in 2013, with 67 percent including ethical conduct as a performance measure in employee evaluations, according to the survey.

So, it would appear that ethics training programs are largely doing a good job of connecting with the average employee. A more troublesome finding to emerge from the poll, however, suggests the message isn’t reaching the higher levels of the organization.

The survey found managers engaged in 60 percent of the misdeeds seen by employees in 2013, with senior managers more likely than lower-level supervisors to break rules. Senior managers were identified in 24 percent of these cases, with middle managers and first-line supervisors pinpointed 19 percent and 17 percent of the time, respectively.

It may not be all that surprising that the propensity for bad behavior increases with rank. But HR leaders are “uniquely suited” to push the organization’s ethics program forward and help build an ethically solid workplace from top to bottom, ERC Senior Vice President Moira McGinty Kios recently told Bloomberg BNA.

“Employee evaluations, promotions and activities related to counseling, discipline and terminations are HR responsibilities,” said McGinty Kios. “HR professionals are perfectly positioned to ensure that each one of these areas is an opportunity to promote the company’s values, and as a result, promote and improve ethics in the workplace.”

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Taking Aim at Pharma, Again

It’s been roughly three years since we reported that East Hanover, N.J.-based Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., the U.S. arm of the Swiss drug maker, had been fined $250 million in punitive damages. It ultimately agreed to pay $152 million.

We mentioned at the time that the jury verdict served as a reminder of the very steep price companies can pay if they’re on the losing end of one of these class-actions.

Glass CeilingOf course, that was prior to the Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes decision, which made it a lot more difficult to certify class actions.

Well, the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the Novartis case, Sanford Heisler LLP, are back, this time announcing a class-action case against Tokyo-based Daiichi Sankyo, in which six current and former female representatives are alleging discrimination.

In the complaint, the plantiffs’ attorneys allege that …

Daiichi Sankyo pays female sales employees less than male employees for doing the same work; promotes or advances female sales employees at a slower rate than male sales employees; treats pregnant employees and working mothers of young children adversely compared to non-pregnant employees, male employees, or non-caregivers; and subjects women to other discriminatory terms and conditions of employment.

And that …

 … a discrete group of predominantly male Daiichi executives and senior sales managers keep a tight rein on employment decisions, including decisions regarding sales employees’ compensation, advancement, and other terms and conditions of employment. Through this male-dominated leadership structure, the company has approved and implemented policies, practices and decisions that have systemically discriminated against female employees.

Several reporters were told by the company via email that it does not comment on pending litigation and “complies with all laws regarding equal opportunity and non-discrimination.”

I spoke to Tom Lewis, shareholder and chair of the Employment Litigation Group at Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville, N.J., to get his thoughts on the action.

Lewis predicts that the plaintiff’s attorneys will likely put “front and center” the fact that the firm is Japanese … that “a Japanese company wouldn’t treat its female employees as well as an American company would.”

“But let’s remember,” he adds, “that a class-action lawsuit like this has to be proven”—and that may not be easy.

Lewis notes that he’s represented many foreign-owned companies and his experience is that they “often go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that, culturally, they’re complying with the laws of this country.”

He also suggests it makes perfect sense that the plantiff’s attorneys would select San Francisco to file the suit in, since the employment laws in California are much more employee-friendly.

We’ll have to watch and see how this case eventually plays out. But this much is certain: The plaintiffs in this case will have a tougher hill to climb in gaining class-action status.

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Rude Awakening

When we regularly ask HR executives to list what keeps them up at night, keeping talent engaged is almost always at (or near) the top of the list.  So you’d think it would be in employers’ self-interests to do more about those behaviors that prevent that from happening, right?

Well, at least in the area of civility (or lack of it), it appears many employers aren’t doing nearly enough.

151581805Of course, it’s no surprise incivility exists in today’s workplace. I’m sure you’ve personally crossed paths with it on more than a few occasions. But a just released study by Professors Christine Porath of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and Christine Pearson of Thunderbird School of Global Management suggests such behaviors may be a lot more  prevalent than you might think.

Indeed, Porath and Pearson, who authored an article on their findings in the Jan.-Feb. edition of the Harvard Business Review, found that nearly half of the 800 managers and employees polled report they were treated rudely at least once per week, up from a quarter of those polled in 1998.

“We heard of one boss who was so routinely abusive that employees and suppliers had a code for alerting one another to his impending arrival (‘The eagle has landed’),” they write.

But what’s even more disturbing than the rise in rude behavior is the price employers appear to be paying.

Of those surveyed, 48 percent intentionally decreased their work effort as a result of uncivil behavior, 47 percent intentionally decreased the time spent at work, 38 percent intentionally decreased the quality of their work and 12 percent left their jobs.

So what should leaders be doing about it?

Here are a few of the suggestions Porath and Pearson put to paper in their HBR
piece:

  • Manage yourself.  “If employees see that those who have climbed the corporate ladder tolerate or embrace uncivil behavior, they’re likely to follow suit,” they write, noting that 25 percent of managers who admitted to having behaved badly said they were uncivil because their leaders—their own role models—were rude.

  • Manage the organization, including the way you hire. “Avoid bringing incivility into the workplace to begin with,” they write, pointing out that companies like Southwest Airlines and Four Seasons put civility at the fore of their interview processes.

  • Teach civility. “One quarter of the offenders we surveyed said that they didn’t recognize their behavior as uncivil,” they say.

  • Reward good behavior and penalize bad behavior.

I have no idea whether these steps—and others offered by Porath and Pearson—are enough to reverse the trend. But the data suggests leaders better try something.

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Future World College-Graduate Shortage Looms Large

college grad-122486537More bad news on the skills-shortage front since my last post on the subject. This time, the shocker comes in the form of a number, part of the McKinsey Global Institute’s recent World at Work report: By 2020, according to the report, the world could have 40 million too few college-educated workers.

Youch. That’s a huge shortage — as the late George Carlin might have said in his infamous oxymoron routine.

As Tracy McCarthy, senior vice president of human resources at Chicago-based SilkRoad technology, told the Society for Human Resource Management in it’s report (subscription required) on this matter,

This skills shortage, particularly for high-tech skills, has existed in the United States for some time now. If you look at the number of H-1B visa holders, you’ll find the majority are for high-tech skilled workers such as engineers.”

Yes, I’ve been aware of the skills shortage for some time now; I know about the scarcity of math-and-science-proficient engineers (something I keep telling my engineer son to bear in mind and use to his advantage as he plots his future); I just hadn’t seen a 40-million-shortage headcount by 2020 until now.

Ravin Jesuthasan, Chicago-based global-talent-management-practice leader for Towers Watson, says the future gap will come with some friction points too. As he puts it,

While there will be an overall shortage of college-educated talent, there will be dramatic differences across countries. Developed markets like the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom will experience huge shortages, while countries like India and Indonesia will generate significant surpluses as the key drivers of education, demographics and immigration play out differentially. The challenge for employers will be how they tap into these surpluses; making the mobility of work essential.”

What the McKinsey report does not cover, Jesuthasan adds, are the specific skills that businesses will demand and the gaps relative to those within the current workforce. As noted in Towers Watson’s Global Talent 2021 report, he points out, employers expect to place increasing emphasis on four skill areas: digital skills, agile thinking, interpersonal and communication skills, and global operating skills.

I guess you can look at all this as more fodder for the battle cry to bring the best thinkers of the world together now – from employment, academic, even governmental sectors – to try and solve this thing before the global marketplace closes up shop.

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