Converging global risk factors means the ability to upskill and reskill workers is going to become a focal point of action for organizations in the coming years.
That’s according to a new publication from Marsh McLennan, in association with the World Economic Forum, in its Global Risk 2024 report, which assesses the top risk factors for 2024 and beyond.
A ‘skills and labor shortage’ only ranked as a risk “most likely to present a material crisis on a global scale in 2024” for 13% of global experts and leaders, significantly behind the top factors ‘extreme weather’ (66%) and ‘AI-generated misinformation and disinformation’ (53%).
However, the convergence of multiple cited risk factors such as ‘social and/or political polarization’ (46%), ‘cost-of-living crisis’ (42%) and public debt distress (14%) will lead to a change in the way skills are sought after and deployed.
UNLEASH was invited to attend the launch of the report to hear how this will impact both the future of work and what it means for employees going forward.
Speaking at the event, Mercer UK transformation leader, Maura Jarvis commented that as these factors become more prominent and influence each other, the skills gap will invariably widen, particularly in geographies where investment in emerging technologies is on the lower end of the scale.
“If we look at technology acceleration, there’s going to be one million new jobs by 2027 for AI and machine learning specialists. We don’t have people with those skills to fill those roles.
“The construction industry is set to double by 2030, climate change or ‘green’ jobs, are anticipated to be 30 million jobs by 2023. Again, those are skill sets that we don’t actually have, and require investment in order to be able to reskill and upskill people to move into those roles.”
Jarvis explains that this creates a “enormous opportunity” for organizations and governments alike to “really take action on investing in skills” by focusing on upskilling or reskilling those in ‘sunset jobs’ and moving them towards ‘sunrise jobs’ – new roles emerging that require new skill sets.
Employees will be just as attentive to how their skills change as employers
Speaking to UNLEASH about who will be the primary driver of this movement, Jarvis said it will be split between both employers and employees.
Organizations, she says, will be focused on strategy and the required capabilities to deliver on it. As such, rapid change and technology acceleration will require an “assessment of the current skills and capabilities, the future requirements and the gap.”
As many of these skills and capabilities are not available in the market or command a high premium, it will make sense to look to the internal talent pool to develop these skills and capabilities.”
Meanwhile, employees will also be actively seeking out opportunities for career development, Jarvis says, and will demand their organizations equip them for the future by developing skills and capabilities to “ensure their employability.”
“We know from our research that the lack of career development and opportunity is a significant driver of attrition. The shift to reskilling and upskilling being collaborative and democratized is very positive.”
Socio-economic factors cannot be ignored when it comes to the future of work
Although there are opportunities born of the risks highlighted within the report, negative factors are predicted to either continue or compound, which will invariably have an impact on the future of work.
The ongoing cost-of-living crisis and its impact upon employee wellbeing has been well documented, while the report also highlights that trust in organizations is beginning to decline post-COVID-19 pandemic.
Indeed, risks such as social polarization (3rd), lack of economic opportunity (6th) and involuntary migration (8th) all ranked among the most severe risks by impact by 2026 – although a 10-year prediction skews far more towards environmental issues that social or economic.
As such, Jarvis says organizations and boards will have “a big role to play” in addressing social discontent on equity and transparency, particularly on issues such as pay equity, the gender pay gap, fair wages and fair working conditions” to maintain trust levels.
She details that HR leaders “need to acknowledge that trust is the currency of relationships” and becomes crucial in times of uncertainty.
“Possible actions include delivering on the organization promises, commitment and values, ensuring that there is a culture of inclusivity, equity and fairness, coupled with transparency.
“Change is constant and so the HR leader needs to build a culture of changefulness, with a clear narrative on the case for change.
The role of leaders across the organization in building trust is critical. They need to demonstrate integrity, capability and benevolence in their interactions with their colleagues.”
Sign up to the UNLEASH Newsletter
Get the Editor’s picks of the week delivered straight to your inbox!
John Brazier is an experienced and award-winning B2B journalist and editor. Prior to joining UNLEASH, John both led and wrote for a number of global and domestic financial services publications, covering markets such as asset management, trading, insurance, fintech and personal finance.