It’s quite a remarkable phenomenon that audiences rave about future gazing presentations, yet rarely ever act on them when they have returned from the conference. It could have to do with the fact that many often only contain well known developments and publically available data, but it’s disappointing when those containing truly valuable and insightful information are forgotten.
However, when they do get noticed and acted upon, that’s when the magic happens.
Let’s take Mara Swan’s (Manpower’s VP Strategy) superb presentation at the recent ERE conference in San Diego. The presentation was incredibly rich with thought provoking insights. This post looks at just one part of it: the change in world population and migration that is linked to it.
Mara Swan shared the map from Worldmapper below, showing the predicted distribution for the estimated world population in 2050. It shows that the population is moving east (which represents a big challenge for values and mind-sets – most of our companies are based on Western and Christian values, yet most of the workforce’s are based on Eastern and Buddhist values).
© Copyright SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan).
At the same time the working population will shrink. This will have a massive effect on migration, as most Western countries depend on immigration to supplement their workforce and to act as drivers for innovation and diversity. If the working population shrinks there are more opportunities at home, resulting in less migration. If you consider that by then we will have more stable middle classes in the emerging economies and more wealth being created in the countries, then the people who are migrating today are unlikely to do it tomorrow.
With the underlying assumptions changing, we also need to adjust our assumptions on talent supply and demand.
At the moment, if a person/team isn’t working out, the answer is to replace them with a new one. This might work at the moment, but most certainly won’t work in 2050. Overlay this with a shortening of skill cycles (3-8 years before a skill is outdated) – and we have a perfect storm, or as Mara Swan said: “The internal workforce is a key factor and a key issue: with fewer people we can’t just get rid of people and hire news ones. Re-skilling and training gains new importance.”
Even more fascinating are the companies that have already implemented programmes and initiatives to tackle this issue. Let’s take Sodexo, as an example:
Arie Ball, their VP of Talent Acquisition, is one of those remarkable people who takes new info and immediately implements change, way before the rest of us even wake up to it.
Sodexo is now headhunting internally. Their internal recruiters have access to succession and performance data, and use this information to help guide their internal searches. You can imagine that many of the line managers weren’t too enamoured about this internal headhunting. At the same time, the internal recruiter also supports and coaches the internal candidates in presentation for interviews. This is to address the issue whereby typically in organisations, external candidates come much better prepared, as the internal candidate often doesn’t prepare for the interview as they believe that the manager already knows about them. Sodexo’s approach makes sense on so many dimensions.
It works for the individual; they feel valued and feel good about themselves and about the company. Too often, the employees are passive candidates and not actively seeking out new opportunities even within the company. Getting a call from the internal recruiter underscores their value and the opportunities for growth. That results in the individual becoming an even stronger brand ambassador.
It works for the company, as they can keep talent (because let’s face it, if the employee believes they wouldn’t be headhunted internally and sees not a chance of change and success, they’ll leave anyway), and they can now up-skill their staff not only through courses and coaches but real world experience. This in itself will result in a reduced time to hire and time to productivity. Additionally, it’s a great way to reinforce new behaviours, spread skills and enable more impactful cultural change, yet in a very subtle way.
This just makes so much sense now and even more so in light of all the future trends. I find this active portfolio management of the employees admirable, because a company’s talent pool starts and ends with the existing workforce.
Let’s build clear characteristics of the players we want on our roster. Let us be ruthless in applying these when bringing in fresh talent and appraising existing talent, but let’s then support our talent and give them the opportunity in becoming the best they can be.