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McKinsey’s latest research examines how automation and artificial intelligence will impact the workforce of the future and reveals the “urgency of putting in place large-scale retraining initiatives for a majority of workers whowill be affected by automation — initiatives that are sorely lacking today.” McKinsey’s findings also indicate there will be “an increase in the need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills — skills that machines are a long way from mastering.” Demand for tech skills and higher cognitive skills will also increase, and the gig economy will grow as freelancers and contractors take on more work. So how should organizations adapt to provide better retraining initiatives and prepare for the inevitable shift in the needs of the workforce? Creating a culture of lifelong learning and providing opportunities for continuous learning is the “change most needed for developing the workforce of the future” across most sectors. HR should also be prepared to evolve in response to the way technology will transform how organizations work. In addition to companies taking steps to equip the workforce of the future, the responsibility also falls to educational institutions, policy makers, associations and unions, and nonprofits and foundations to work together to provide better training for workers. Ultimately, “the watchword of the new era will be adaptability … Workers but also companies will need to be open and embrace new forms of working, new structures, and new approaches, in a world of work that will be changing rapidly.”
Return of the Jedi
Returnships, or internship-style programs that help people prepare to rejoin the workforce, are beginning to take off in several organizations. Workers who took time away for various reasons including caregiving, joining the military, or raising a family have the opportunity to improve their skills by joining a returnship. These programs generally run from eight to 16 weeks, where participants brush up on their skills, receive training, and are evaluated by managers before potentially being hired. GM, IBM, and Deloitte are among the companies offering returnship opportunities, and these programs are already demonstrating success. Over the past three years at Deloitte, nearly 100% of returnship participants have been hired. By offering returnships, organizations have the opportunity to tap into an often overlooked yet highly experienced talent pool, and the potential to enhance corporate culture and diversity.
Research on different generations in the workplace often covers millennials and baby boomers, which leaves out a significant group: Gen X workers, which includes the highest percentage of managers. Gen X workers face a growing and unique need: many struggle with caring for both children and the elderly while balancing work. With the aging population increasing steadily over the next few years, the demand for caregivers is also growing. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) indicates that over 75 percent of employers say caregiving benefits will become a higher priority, especially as 24 million family caregivers “are juggling caregiving responsibilities and employment. By recognizing and supporting their needs, employers can improve productivity and foster a stable and healthy workforce.” When it comes to acquiring talent, some employers focus more heavily on attracting millennials while overlooking Gen X workers, despite unemployment at a low of 4.1 percent. Some organizations like Deloitte and Adobe understand the need to attract and retain the Gen X talent pool. Recognizing that “family dynamics and structures are constantly evolving,” Deloitte provides 16 weeks of paid time off each year that covers caregiving needs from supporting elderly parents to caring for ill relatives. Adobe similarly provides paid time for employees to care for sick family members and offers a backup care program that helps provide temporary care for family members while employees are working. Allowing employees flexibility and time to tend to familial responsibilities can impact retention and help employees be more productive and present. Adobe VP of Global Rewards Rosemary Arriada-Keiper said of their program, “Our employees are our greatest asset, so when we do the right thing for them, it’s inevitably the right thing for our business.”
Walmart recently announced plans to pay for employees to pursue associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in business or supply chain management from the University of Florida, Brandman University, and Bellevue University, which all have a strong focus on adult students. Coming off the heels of Walmart’s training academies, which graduated 400,000 employees over the past two years, the new initiative is part of Walmart’s “broader push to invest in employee education and training.” With the retail industry struggling with high turnover, education assistance programs like Walmart’s could be helpful in boosting retention. A report from a similar program at Cigna indicated the company gained every dollar back spent on employee education, saved $1.29 on talent management, and participating employees saw a 43 percent wage increase. Will Walmart experience similar success? The Lumina Foundation will measure the impact and effectiveness of the program, but the true benefit will be the development of employees who have the chance to further their education and potentially improve their career paths.
MIT Sloan Management Review recently shared an infographic — based on their 2018 digital transformation report authored with Deloitte — detailing the key challenges and opportunities for working in the evolving digital world. Some notable points: continuous learning is critical as individuals take on more responsibility, digitally mature organizations need to encourage feedback and iteration to learn how to work in new ways, and executive leadership must evolve and create conditions to enable success.
Watch: Ruminations on Retail
Kynetic CEO and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin shares his thoughts on the future of the retail industry in the Wall Street Journal’s video series “Drawing the Future”: fewer brick-and-mortar stores, the need for retailers to stand out, and more.