Predicting the future is an imprecise art, but megatrends today give us a sneak peek at what we can expect over the next several years, says Jacques van den Broek, the global CEO of employment firm, Randstad.
“In every mature world economy, we see the same problems,” he says. “Everyone is looking for the same people, and while they have no issues finding talent, they struggle to find engaged people who will bring real value to their organisation.”
Two trends in particular are indicative of the future of work: de-industrialisation and job polarisation. The effects of both are dissected and expanded in Randstad’s Future of Work in the Digital Age report.
Digitisation and automation are “causing the middle to crumble,” he says. According to the report, the distance between the highest earners and the lowest earners in any given industry continues to widen. Traditional middle-income professions such as machine operators or office clerks are disappearing. What results is that employment becomes concentrated at extremes, with few opportunities in the middle.
These long-term trends have spurred many countries and businesses to action – some in more productive ways than others. At one end of the spectrum, van den Broek says you’ll find those who fight against digitisation and globalisation. But thinking like this is only delaying the inevitable, he says.
“It’s no longer about ‘the job’ or ‘the contract’ – not when 40 to 50 per cent of people have no fixed role,” he says. “Where some countries falter is they continue to think of employment in terms of manufacturing and non-manufacturing roles, when really it’s now about routine versus non-routine roles.”
This issue is compounded by countries that take anti-immigration standpoints. There is some mismatch between where the talent is and where the jobs are, van den Broek says. Australia’s own STEM skills shortage illustrates this concept perfectly. “Talented people cannot move to where the jobs are,” he says.
Other companies and governments are exploring ways to capitalise on the new reality of a dynamic labour market. New tasks require new skills, and van den Broek says alongside digitisation and automation is increasing demand for analytical and creative tasks.
AI facilitates interactions, says van den Broek, but everything still needs the human touch. Companies that don’t want to be Uberised need to find innovative ways to help the two ends meet. Startups are the best at finding innovative solutions to these problems, he says, but they don’t scale well.
Randstad recognised this, and decided to partner with various existing startups to meet the bar that’s being set by jobseeker expectations. What results is a talent funnel, where things like jobs alerts, payroll, skills assessments, interviewing, networking and more can be facilitated by a suite of online platforms, apps and analytical tools.
“Talent engagement is a subtle game,” van den Broek says. “The fundamentals of finding talent haven’t changed much; we just need to learn how to pick smarter and solve the engagement problem.”
Here are Van den Broek’s top tips for how workplaces can get ready for the future of work, supported by research from Randstad’s Future of Work in the Digital Age report.
- Ease migration: This allows for better flow of talent from where they are, to where the jobs are.
- Introduce a dynamic labour market: Embrace the changes caused by digitisation and explore new forms of work and skills development.
- Develop a talent framework: For each employee, van den Broek says employers should create a three to five year framework for developing them.
- Extend the talent pool: Rethink who can and will do this work?
- Increase employability: Look at the potential of each employee outside their current role. That way, if the department disappears, they aren’t left in the lurch.
Jacques van den Broek, Global CEO of Randstad presented the report’s findings at a recent Trans Tasman Business Circle event.