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Defining Workforce of Future

Updated: May 23, 2023

Pandemic has brought in a big social revolution, bringing changes in every aspect of our lives. The workplace also saw drastic shifts in culture and pre-COVID norms, diminishing boundaries between work and home. The pandemic challenged supply chains while businesses faced reduced revenue and market share. Such disruptions asked for increased efficiency and a cost-effective operational model in the entire value chain of an organization—including the human capital. While the technology helped businesses adopt remote working as mainstream culture, the continued scarcity of skilled workforce poses a severe risk to the post-COVID recovery phase. As 2020 proved to be a tipping point for work, workplace, and workforce, organizations are looking to survive and thrive in the new normal. The pandemic forced industries to rethink, re-envision, reimagine and retransform the fundamentals of human capital. In the future, the challenges created by COVID could enable workers to organize their working lives as they see fit. It'll help businesses become competitive, reduce the governmental challenges of high unemployment levels and economic hardship, and sign up for a new social contract that sets the road map for achieving that.

How Covid Changed Priorities

Digital Transformation might be the buzzword, but acquiring and retaining top talents have always been at the core of an efficient workforce. Workers no longer operate in siloes, but the entire ecosystem of employees, contractors, and contingent workers work in tandem to support business operations. Before the outbreak, most of the businesses had fully operational offices, with enterprises having offices worldwide. Strict regulations around the data access required the work to be carried out strictly at offices—either onsite or off-site. Most organizations emphasized cross-skilling and up-skilling their workforce as part of strategic priority to bring agility and operational efficiency. However, since the outbreak of COVID, companies are envisioning adaptability and elasticity in their workforce. As per a survey by LinkedIn, "Facing unprecedented uncertainty and volatility, companies will move away from static jobs in siloed departments and toward project-based cross-functional work, where employees will shift to new projects as business needs change. The survey also predicts virtual hiring to pick up exponentially. It states, "Candidates for entry-level positions may experience a completely virtual hiring process, not setting foot in the office until they're onboarded. Executive candidates, on the other hand, will continue to receive a more bespoke process with numerous onsite visits and virtual one-on-ones helping out fresh recruits to adapt to the culture." As the workplaces reimagined, the talent market is virtually the entire world, giving a better chance to tap the best resource. Human capital is now transforming to become highly agile, adaptable, and resilient.

Talent Scarcity

Technology is evolving, and so is the expectation from fresh graduates. As per an Accenture report, "Over the next decade, the 14 G20 countries in our analysis could miss out on as much as US$11.5 trillion of cumulative growth promised by intelligent technologies, if they can't meet future skills demand. That equates to forgoing more than an entire percentage point from their annual average GDP growth rate every year." Beyond such a massive economic impact, more significant risks are unemployment and income disparity. As the labor market is not uniformly distributed, this impact will differ by country and industry. Another extensive report by agency Korn Ferry suggests that by 2030, over 85 million jobs could go unfilled due to the lack of adequate skilled people to take them. The impact of the talent crunch is so massive that the continued predominance of industry leaders is in question. An obvious solution is to bring more skilled graduates to emerging technologies like AI, cloud, and IoT. But, the question is, "Are these fresh graduates or entry-level workers worth investment?" A recent survey by AJobThing mentions that fresh graduates possessing internships are 70% more likely to be hired as full-time employees with a company, and 66% of employers think that relevant work experience is the most critical factor in their hiring decision."

Aging Workforce

As per a global estimate, it is projected that the workers aged between 50 and 64 will increase by 15-30% by 2030. As the industry faces pressing challenges around talent scarcity, an un-proportionate rise of an 'experienced' workforce will be threatening an ideal workforce mix for any organization. This demographic shift also attracts negative sentiments due to ever-increasing healthcare costs. Strategically tapping the 'experienced' pool will help alleviate the talent shortfall concerns and provide impetus to high-demand qualities like social skills, hands-on experience, maturity, emotional stability, and better decision-making. Organizations should try to achieve a healthy combination of 'experienced' and a young workforce via innovative job and talent operational models to leverage a future-ready, experienced workforce. Job Model: A job should focus on the goal rather than the suitable resource mapping. Hiring managers should envision what they want to achieve as part of a job and then augment it with the proper sourcing. For example, a typical job can also be fulfilled by a combination of experienced, young, or fresh graduates to bring in micro-level diversity and efficiency. Talent Model: Talent should not be limited to traditional markets but open to new innovative models to attract the best talents. For example, the gig economy brings flexibility and mobility to the workplace but is often hampered by few structural drawbacks. While experienced professionals can hit the ground running with hardly any training, they often bring strong leadership skills to influence the young workforce. However, hiring a new talent who has entry-level experience can result in enormous advantages for your business — inculcating a culture of learning and innovative ways of thinking. When choosing between hiring experienced and inexperienced employees, an out-of-box approach might be to select a combination of both for the same job rather than choosing either of them.

Learning while Working

Macro trends like digital transformation, COVID impact, decreasing shelf-life of traditional skills, and exponential rise of niche skillsets are challenging organizations to catch up as they try to hire, develop and retain their people. The primary focus for organizations is to identify, assess, and close skills gaps. Unfortunately, dedicated L&D programs are no longer a viable option as there is increased pressure to reduce L&D budgets to protect cash flow during the pandemic. Up-skilling and reskilling while working will be the way how talent will be nurtured in the future. With employees working remotely, learning should happen as part of the work and be augmented with technology and mentorship from seniors or experienced colleagues.

Remote Workforce

COVID-19 has been a trend accelerator. The crisis has turbocharged niche trends around digital adoption in workplace flexibility. One of the most incredible adoptions has occurred with the rise of flexible work practices, including remote hiring. Several surveys have shown that leaders are generally willing to allow remote working to continue after the crisis. Gartner finds that 80% of company leaders plan their employees to work remotely for at least part of the time post-pandemic, and 47% of leaders will allow employees to work from home permanently. Another survey by Enterprise Technology Research finds, "Global CIOs expect remote work to increase to 34.4% after the pandemic—double pre-pandemic levels but half of the pandemic peak." However, contrary to expectations, remote workers have increased productivity—between 15% and 45%—than their in-office colleagues. Significant cost savings is also one of the benefits for a remote workforce. IBM saved around $50 million per year in real estate costs, McKesson saved $2 million, and Sun Microsystems saved almost $68 million a year due to remote workers not needing office space. (Global Workplace Analytics)


External forces like COVID have redefined the workforce. There are unique and sustained challenges to be faced as business leaders grapple with demographic and social changes, disruptive technologies, and innovative breakthroughs. Companies can no longer afford to hold onto outdated hiring approaches and skillsets. Organizations need to reshape the workforce culture and create innovative skill ecosystems that build an engaged, enabled, and agile workforce.

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