Business strategies and economic modeling are critical for identifying Future of Work jobs

A few months ago, I met with a talent mobility leader at a Fortune 100 financial service firm to learn more about the work they were doing and how they were determining what roles needed reskilling. I was caught off guard when the person reported they were simply going by the feedback of whatever business leader they could speak to and focused on whatever role they heard about in these conversations. 

To be fair, this is exactly how I ran similar initiatives a few years ago when I worked in the HR department at Capital One. But it was an incredibly reactive approach to preparing an organization for the Future of Work, and it plays only one part of the solution. The discussion reminded me of how critical it was to strike a balance between two critical inputs: the first being business strategies articulated by business partners and the second is economic modeling data.

Though most HR organizations are really good at holding business conversations and gathering information that way, it’s unfortunate that most of these teams don’t have enough talent, resources, partners, or processes set up to use economic modeling in order to see around corners and prepare roles as industries evolve.


Business strategies paint only half the picture

I deeply believe that strategic business outcomes must be the basis of most decisions when it comes to determining where upskilling and reskilling are necessary. The biggest challenge with this approach though is the limited scope and insight L&D professionals are given, which prevents them from fully succeeding with these kinds of decisions.

If you are the L&D business partner serving a group, you need to have a line of sight to acquisitions, major systems being implemented, older products being deprecated, overhauls to business processes and strategy, and the trust of your business leaders to solve the problem. For each of the situations outlined, critical questions must be asked:

  • Are there brand new roles we’ll need as a result of this change? 
  • Are there existing roles that map into net new roles?
  • How will existing skillsets for existing employees need to change as a result?
  • Who are the partners who can help me execute this kind of change?

To date, I’ve yet to see a company that tracked at an organizational level the kinds of changes I’m outlining above. This disparate work often gets executed in silos within a business unit or team, and fails to empower an organization’s L&D team so that it can do the wide-scale planning and transformation that is required to help a company thrive in the midst of change.


Economic modeling data can empower L&D

The first time I saw job-specific trends for my employer was during my time at Capital One, through a now-acquired learning experience platform. The landing screen popped up and showed that our hiring for bank tellers was down by 10% in the past 12 months. My jaw hit the floor. I had no idea that this kind of trend was underfoot. Granted, I supported Enterprise Learning and wasn’t involved in the retail banking business arm of the company, but there was a tremendous transition underway within the company that had never been articulated internally. It took an external vendor using scraped data on job postings for me to see the trend.

I wrote in detail before about the inputs Guild uses to model Future of Work roles, but I want to reflect on the benefit of developing the discipline of economic modeling at a higher level. In short, every transition you hear about from business leaders shouldn’t be taken for granted. If your company is executing this kind of change, it’s likely that other companies are doing the same. Taking this into consideration, there are a few different views you can develop from the same data: 

  • Geographical: What are the roles predicted to be in greatest demand in your company’s footprint over the next 2-4 years? If you don’t have those demands today, will you in time? How should you go on the offense to be sure you have that talent? Are there any new employers moving to town that you’ll need to go up against?
  • Industry-vertical specific: What are the roles predicted to be in the greatest demand amongst your competitors? Is your business strategy consistent with what those competitors are doing? What will differentiate you from those competitors? Are these roles you’ll need to develop because you expect an industry-bent on a non-industry role?
  • Campus pipeline: The National Student Clearinghouse and other data providers can tell you a lot about what college enrollment looks like right now. For instance, if you source roles from community colleges, you should have a clear view of what’s happening in that space post-pandemic. Likewise, enrollment for the class of 2025 and beyond is not looking good, and we’re seeing more Black students exit technical fields. If you’re looking to build a talent pool that looks like and understands your increasingly diverse consumer base, campus recruiting may not be the boon to you that it has been in years past. 

By using both business strategies and economic modeling to pinpoint what roles need upskilling and reskilling, L&D teams can be more efficient and precise about developing talent for the Future of Work. After all, when talent acquisition costs for a specific role balloon far beyond the cost of upskilling your own employees for the same kind of role, it hurts the bottom line of the entire organization. It will also help companies be more resilient for the next crisis, whether that be an unforeseen economic downturn, another pandemic, or an unexpected disruption in the industry.

Written by Matthew Daniel

Principal, Employer Solutions

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