opinion piece

Notes on the New Normal #3 – Taking a lead at a time of transition

BLOG – With several million jobs displaced and added as a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis, the ability to facilitate transitions and adapt to change will be critical in the new normal. The opportunity is there for the HR Services industry to radically enhance its role, reputation and impact and deploy its expertise in helping workers and businesses navigate transitions.

Published on 26th October 2020

According to a recent World Economic Forum report, 85 million jobs will be displaced and 97 million jobs will be added by 2025. This shines the light on the need to help people move into new roles and sectors and on the pioneering role that the global private employment services sector can play in this area. With other seismic change afoot, there has never been a more important time to tap into the practical expertise of recruitment and employment experts.

Adapting to rapid and unrelenting change is a core theme of the World Employment Confederation’s ‘Alliance Task-Force’ project. Below are five examples of the global sector taking a lead at a time of transition:

  1. Helping job-seekers to bounce back better – 400 million full time jobs were lost in the second quarter of 2020, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Workers in the informal and gig economies are the hardest hit as are the workers in worst affected sectors such as retail, trade, transportation, hospitality and manufacturing. Across the world, national governments are looking for solutions. Harnessing the industry’s contribution will be pivotal in helping people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic to transition back into work as quickly as possible.


  1. Facilitating a jobs and skills ‘reset’ – Helping individuals in the hardest hit sectors to access opportunities in sectors and roles where demand for staff remains strong is a priority in most countries. Speaking on the recent ‘World Views on the World of Work’ podcast, NRF CEO Geraldine King flagged a great example of individuals from the aviation sector potentially accessing new opportunities as drone pilots in the logistics sector. Individuals need guidance and support to negotiate these transitions and there is increasing recognition for the industry’s role – and in particular for the specific contribution that the career management sector can make – in this area.


  1. Managing safe transitions back to the workplace – Recent estimates by the ILO show that 2.7 billion workers, representing 81 per cent of the global workforce, have been affected by lockdown measures. Within a constantly evolving landscape for employers and policy makers, employment service providers will continue to play a pivotal role in ensuring a safe return to workplaces. Concerns about the mental health of workers is increasing as the health crisis rumbles on. For example, a recent survey in the US showed over two-thirds of workers saying this was the most stressful time in their careers. Advising clients on the best possible approaches to deal with this is a further example of the added value that the HR services sector provides.


  1. Promoting a new mind-set – In the words of Indian Staffing Federation (ISF) President Lohit Bhatia: “The crisis has created a psychological shift in how work is perceived; security comes from having the right skills rather than by being wedded to one role within one employer”. Career management firms have also flagged a trend towards increased ownership on the back of the Covid-19 crisis, with more people planning ahead and re-evaluating their career options. As well as helping current workers and job-seekers negotiate this brave new world of work, it is crucial to raise awareness amongst the next generation. The work that many employment and recruitment experts already take forward with local schools and colleges will become more important than ever is raising awareness of evolving skills needs, of different ways of working and of the need for a flexible and growth-orientated mind-set.


  1. Making sense of complexity – This was a challenge even before the crisis. The pandemic has doubled-down on the urgency surrounding complex ‘hot-topics’ such as the possible impact of automation and AI on jobs, new skills needs and evolving expectations of workers. The need to ensure that industry’s voice is front and centre of both global and national level debates was a theme of the recent WEC podcast, with Alfred Budschitz, Director General of AGEST- Chile, making the case for the global sector “occupying the mainstream of the employment ecosystem”. As well as boosting perceptions and political influence, the ability to make sense of a complex environment can open new doors and new markets for the sector.

The opportunity is there for the HR Services industry to radically enhance its role, reputation and impact in the so called New Normal. This is the core message from ongoing and in-depth interviews with industry leaders, national federations and external organisations. The ability to facilitate transitions, adapt to change and make a positive impact on a fluid world of work is driving the global industry forward despite a radically disrupted global landscape

This post is part of a series where we 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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