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opinion piece

Notes on the New Normal #2 – Mixed tapes, mixed messages and external takes on the new world of work

BLOG – An important element of the World Employment Confederation’s ‘Alliance Task-Force’  project is to reach beyond the industry’s own echo-chamber to sample different views on what a post-COVID world of work might look like. Recent conversations and virtual gatherings of the WEC have enabled us to overlay the views and insight from international institutions, global consultancies and other stakeholders. Here is a ‘mixed-tape’ of some initial external perspectives.

Published on 7th October 2020

In the words of the world-renowned artist Beyoncé, “If everything was perfect, you would never learn and you would never grow.” With this universal truth in mind, an important element of the World Employment Confederation’s ‘Alliance Task-Force’  project is to reach beyond the industry’s own echo-chamber to sample different views on what a post-COVID world of work might look like. Below is a ‘mixed-tape’ of some initial external perspectives.

Recent conversations and virtual gatherings of the WEC have enabled us to overlay the views and insight from international institutions, global consultancies and other stakeholders. Here are a few greatest hits:

  1. The health crisis rumbles on – With the external landscape and public health priorities continuing to change on an almost daily basis, there are inevitably some mixed messages from policy makers and differing interpretations of what needs to be done. The feedback from international institutions and business organisations is that employers need help which is why the support of employment service providers will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring a safe return to workplaces.  A core aim of the WEC’s ‘Alliance Task-Force’ is to showcase this contribution and to learn from successful approaches across different countries.

 

  1. Retaining and re-skilling is a common goal – Refocusing support activities was the core theme of the joint WEC/ILO ‘Activation for Recovery’. According to the OECD over 50 million jobs have been supported by retention schemes; but there is now an urgent need to restructure support to avoid trapping resources in non-productive ‘zombie’ jobs and to help people switch to more productive and higher-paid jobs. The global employment services sector is already taking a lead on facilitating transitions and in ensuring that all workers are supported. On this last point, it was good to hear external organisations recognise the need to ensure that training is compatible with part-time work and irregular work schedules.

 

  1. It’s time to get active with labour market policies– There has never been a more important time for innovative and proactive labour market policies. But what specific actions will be the most effective in driving jobs market recoveries? The three top priorities identified during the recent WEC/ILO webinar were: Re-skilling, effective public/private sector co-operation and practical support to job-seekers. The private employment services sector has a pivotal role the play in delivering each of these three priorities. This role was underlined by recently elected WEC President Bettina Schaller: “With the health crisis giving rise to a labour market crisis, employers, workers and policy makers are looking to our sector for solutions; breaking down complexity is our USP”.

 

  1. The focus on risk and reputation will drive further change– On the back of the crisis, business leaders around the world are reviewing risks and reputation management. Speaking on a recent  WEC webinar Brian Kropp VP of research at Gartner, a global leader in business research and advisory services, made the point that: “There is no playbook, but the way businesses manage this crisis will define their employer brand and their future success”. Nurturing a positive employer brand will remain central to talent attraction and retention strategies; HR service providers can provide valuable external support in this area. Agile workforce management and ethical hiring practices are also an integral component of effective risk and reputation management strategies. In the words of WEC’s Managing Director Denis Pennel: “We are moving from ‘just in time’ staffing to ‘just in case’ staffing”

 

  1. Flexibility is the name of the game – One of the legacies of the crisis will be shorter business planning cycles which will, in turn, intensify the need for agile workforce management. This was the view espoused by Gartner’s Brian Kropp in underlining “the need for rampant flexibility”. Can we make progress in ensuring that regulatory frameworks facilitate this much needed agility? As Brendan McGinty from the NRF, Ireland’s national federation for the recruitment industry, puts it: “The global employment services industry can take a strong leadership position; our role is to ensure that policy prerogatives can be matched to the real world.”

 

What’s next? As well as engaging industry leaders and national federations in a ‘big conversation’, we will continue to listen to the vibes emanating from beyond our sector. Whether these are harmonious or discordant, they will form an important sound-check as we look to reposition the role of the global employment services sector in the New Normal.

This post is part of a series where we will explore the key themes that emerged from the conversations with national federations and corporate leaders within the Alliance Task Force. The series is signed by Tom Hadley, an external advocacy and campaigns consultant and former Director of Policy & Campaigns at the REC, the professional body for the UK’s recruitment and employment industry. He is currently leading the World Employment Confederation’s ‘Alliance Task-force’ project.

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