ManpowerGroup is a Fortune 500 American multinational corporation headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With global revenues in excess of $20bn (2017), it is a world leader in employment solutions: from resourcing to talent and project management. From humble beginnings, the company has successfully grown to become a global behemoth. The numbers are staggering: 2,700 offices in 80 countries, 30,000 direct and 4.4 million agency employees, with a customer base of more than 400,000 companies and 3 million people placed into work in 2017.

Changing Landscapes in a Digital World

The global workforce is changing fast and with it the characteristics that once shaped its past. It is witnessing a seismic transformation in the way people work, the pace of change is astonishing and quite unsettling. In many ways, firms and people are not sure what skills will be relevant for them to ensure competitiveness in the future. The open debate is not about how technology will influence and impact the global labour market, but how the world will cope with the disruption.

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are at the core of this upheaval. Many industries are already on the backfoot, as ‘thinking machines’ replace humans doing routine tasks. And, as they become more efficient, they act as a constant reminder of the skills that firms should look for in the new world. At a time when business leaders are struggling with geopolitical and socio-economic issues, disruption to their business plans raises many challenges and questions.

Without a doubt technology will benefit those with the right skills, but for those who have not acquired such skills far darker prospects loom. Of course, it is not all doom and gloom. The big issue is not to try and predict what the future holds but to become ever more robust and develop the agility to manage future risks as they emerge.

The future of work examines how advancements in science and technology will dynamically transform organisations in the way they work, the people they hire, retain and promote. There is a demographic shift from “jobs-for-life” to a more creative approach to employment, as people have more diverse career choices and learning tools at their disposal. In the skills revolution, ManpowerGroup’s value proposition is ever more relevant.

As part of their strategy, the firm leverages technology to adapt to a fast-changing world of work. The goal is to help people to continuously upskill to ensure their future employability.

“Employment trends in the digital age are still driven by supply and demand forces, and that won’t change. A skills gap will inevitably shift power towards the demand-side to a point where companies recognise what is happening at the macro level, and rethink their strategies accordingly.”

Jonas Prising, CEO ManpowerGroup

In other words, business leaders ought to appreciate the nature of the challenge and design organisations where learning is a continuous process, as a way of empowering staff and creating a more integrated and competitive environment.

To adapt to a new paradigm will also require a culture of collaboration between established and new businesses. As an example, ManpowerGroup has engaged start-ups in an accelerator program to re-imagine the HR  function. Flashbrand which won the best HR start-up award has launched a real-time platform that is poised to revolutionise feedback in the workplace. Its intuitive user interface “triggers dialogue, breaks down communication barriers and facilitates collaborative spirit and cooperation.”

Clearly, their app offers the kind of insight to empower the workforce that companies need. The perspective from Prising is that the battle for human capital will significantly shape the future of work, and to stay ahead of the competition, companies will need to constantly re-invent and disrupt themselves.

Emerging Trends in the Workplace

Prising’s vision and ambition are clear, as he advocates for investment in core skillsets that will increase the resilience of people, organisations and countries. Adopting to a changing, and yet, unknown future environment calls for “collaboration”, “education” and “upskilling”.

To the employer, the skills revolution requires a new mindset to develop a resilient, adaptable workforce; and for individuals seeking to advance their careers in a competitive job market, the right skillsets. Education initiatives, which are relevant and up-to-date will strengthen the talent pool but are only part of the solution; businesses must equally contribute to ongoing training and mentoring as part of strengthening their core organisational capability.

In effect, the value placed on different skills will change. Digitisation and growth in highly skilled work will bring new opportunities. Technology will replace both manual and mental tasks. Employees will engage in more fulfilling roles using creativity, emotional intelligence and intellectual flexibility to tap into their unlimited human potential.

Design Thinking As a Learning Tool

As the future of work searches for a hero in an increasingly competitive environment, where client loyalties are tested on a daily basis, firms need to think beyond the current situation, to address their customers’ future needs. Design thinking supports these challenges, embracing the symbiosis between leadership and emotional intelligence to deliver transformational change.

As continued assessment societal impacts in a futuristic environment takes place, it is becoming clear technological advancement will streamline work processes and increase efficiencies; for employability will no longer depend on what one already knows, but on how well one adapts to a continuous learning environment. However, a firm must depend on its ability to optimise their resources in people, skills and technology to gain a winning edge.

In a final remark, Prising warned that:

“We need to start thinking differently about the workforce. In this digital world, success will rely less on formal education, more on the appetite for continuous skills development. Leaders must nurture their employee’s learnability, so that they can remain competitive.”