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What role for career management in a changing world of work?

The World Employment Confederation organized a roundtable discussion with global and European stakeholders in February to discuss how career management services can help employers to attract and retain their workforce and empower individuals to maintain their long-term employability. From lifelong learning to employee retention and cooperation between public and private employment services, participants did not run out of topics to address.

Published on 7th March 2019

Employment rates are historically high in most OECD countries and the average unemployment rate is back to its pre-crisis levels. So, is the storm over and the sun shining bright again on the labour markets? Not quite… Despite progress, some groups remain under-represented on labour markets. In the OECD countries, broad labour underutilisation was still at 28.1% in 2016. Employers, across all sectors globally, struggle to find people with the competencies required. Technological advancement is adding pressure on the need for upskilling and reskilling of workers. Careers become more fragmented and, without the necessary guidance, can result in negative implications for workers and their quality of life.

Some strong wings are needed to weather the storm. “Career management services facilitate the fluidity that is needed in today’s labour markets by increasing employability of individuals and engagement within organizations,” explains Ranjit de Sousa, chairman of the World Employment Confederation’s Career Management Task Force. To discuss how the industry plays such role, the World Employment Confederation organized a roundtable discussion in February with global and European stakeholders, including the OECD, the European Commission, global and European networks for public employment services, employers’ organisations (Business Europe, IOE) and think-tanks.

“In the changing world of work, our market gets very dynamic and changes constantly,” de Sousa said, introducing the career management sector. “Our core activity remains around outplacement and career transition, supporting external mobility in times of lay off. Equally important is redeployment, ensuring internal mobility within organisations. And thirdly, around these core services, our industry also supports development through reskilling/upskilling.”

Guidance through transitions

Stakeholders confirmed the trend of careers no longer being linear and transitions being more frequent. There is a clear role for Career Management firms, representatives of employers’ organisations said, to help organisations adjust to this trend by developing new retention pathways for their staff. Skills can be transferred not only within the organization but also within supply chains, to clients, suppliers or partner companies. In this case, investing in the long-term employability of their staff still benefit the organization; even if the worker goes working somewhere else.

Yet, offering learning and development opportunities is not enough, stakeholders pointed out. First, individuals must take responsibility for developing their own path. The OECD has for instance studied the potential of individual learning accounts to improve adult training. Secondly, people need to be better guided in which skills to develop. If not, they may end up overqualified but unskilled. The European Union has for instance developed the Skills Panorama, a database to foster the development or improvement of skill needs assessment and anticipation; to better align education and training systems with labour market needs; and to improve matching of skill supply and demand across the EU.

A last theme addressed during the roundtable was the responsibility of public authorities and how best public and private employment services can cooperate. Sweden was mentioned as an example where such cooperation was effective in ensuring rapid re-employment of displaced workers. Representatives of public employment services agreed that both public and private players have their strengths and weaknesses and that there is potential for greater complementarity.

The roundtable concluded that there are many topics to explore around the role of Career Management in building more resilient labour markets. The World Employment Confederation will continue the dialogue with the different stakeholder groups in the coming months.

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