How is the World of Work Evolving? Q&A with Oliver Wilkinson, Director of Customer and Market Insight, Allegis Group EMEA

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Exploring key trends in the evolving of world of work and what employers should consider to remain competitive in a post-pandemic employment market.

In 2019, Allegis Group released Connecting Talent to Potential Business Outcomes, exploring global workforce trends based on a survey of 1,800 HR and business decision-makers and 2,000 workers. Those decision-makers face increasing demands on innovation and competition, and growing pressure to keep up with the latest trends in talent acquisition. With workplace trends evolving at pace, there are more challenges facing customers than ever before when it comes to understanding their own hiring demands, as well as the attraction and retention of top talent.

In recent months, with the advent of COVID-19, might the world of work as know it have changed forever?

We asked our Director of Customer and Market Insight Oliver Wilkinson for a European view on these trends and what companies should be considering in a post-pandemic world of work.

Q1. The Allegis Group report details key trends in how workplaces are changing across the world. From a European perspective, how would you describe the evolution of the workplace?

The rate of change in the workplace in Europe is remarkable. New technologies to automate work are advancing, and companies have more talent engagement and resource options than ever before. Undoubtedly, one major change is that an increasing number of workers now have unprecedented flexibility for how, where, and when they do their jobs.

Before the unexpected events brought along by COVID-19, companies were beginning to increase working flexibility. In recent months, attitudes toward working from home have markedly shifted. In many companies, remote work and virtual teams are part of the new business as usual. The challenge will come from companies that don’t yet recognise this shift or are unwilling or unprepared to adapt post-lockdown. Those organizations will face the real risk of being left at a competitive disadvantage in the way they attract talent and keep their existing workforce engaged.

Q2. Compared to three years ago, 79 percent of global HR and business decision-makers say it is more difficult to attract and retain talent with critical skills. Why are businesses finding this difficult and how can they adapt to keep up?

Before the pandemic, demand for talent was outstripping supply in many industries, leaving skills shortages that made finding suitable workers difficult. Traditional methods of attraction had also become less effective, and companies that had relied on their brand reputation to attract candidates were beginning to face tough competition from more innovative and progressive competitors.

Higher unemployment expected in coming months as a result of COVID-19 may shift the demand/supply dynamic for a period of time; however, rethinking methods of talent attraction will still be a key point of differentiation for employers. For example, as companies adapt to using more contractors and other flexible workers, one attraction strategy that will come into play is the assignment value proposition (AVP), attracting candidates based on the value the assignment can bring. People will embrace an assignment as an opportunity to sharpen their skills, or perhaps the assignment features a variety of work or has high visibility to stakeholders. All of these qualities can help attract the right person to the job. Likewise, positioning a strong culture that showcases commitment to things like corporate social responsibility, as well as diversity and inclusion are also important, along with the use of social media to attract from emerging talent pools.

There’s also pressure mounting to balance technology and the human touch when it comes to talent attraction. Companies understand that the human factor is a major influence on their ability to attract and retain workers and are looking to apply technology to improve the daily experience of everyone in the workforce. Whether using new applications to simplify virtual work, enable better collaboration, or make information easily available and accessible across the enterprise, the technology is now available to make life better for everyone in the workforce.

Q3. Forty-nine percent of decision-makers surveyed find it difficult to determine what talent and technology resources they need to achieve key goals, projects, and initiatives. Can you comment on what might be leading to this challenge?

As projects become more complex and the line between the need for hard and soft skills blurs, companies are reevaluating traditional hiring criteria for permanent employees but are also depending on outsourced services to leverage the talent they need. With an increase in demand for multi-skilled workers and agile ways of working, some traditional roles are gradually becoming redundant, and new skill sets or blended skill sets are emerging in the workplace. We also know that decision-makers consider outsourcing more often today compared to three years ago to complement direct hiring as a way of delivering projects.

A path forward to truly help businesses understand their hiring needs requires a systematic approach to identifying both the right permanent and project-based services to address business needs and a relationship with a recruitment partner who understands and can respond to these needs.

Q4. The report talks about how companies must adapt to the shifting relationship between employer and employee. What does this mean and why is it important?

Firstly, it’s about understanding that the role and expectations of the traditional employer has changed in recent years. For a while, people held the view that a job was for life and that it was the employee’s responsibility to live up to the company’s expectations. Today, people know they will likely hold many jobs during the course of their careers.

Those workers are not just looking for an employer but instead a career partner. They are looking for an employer that will invest in training, provide a variety of assignments, and give them the opportunities they need to advance and grow in their own way. Employees have more options than they have ever had before, and organisations that don’t adapt to that career-partner mindset could lose their ability to sustain the workforce they need.

In the World of Business and Talent, Every Trend Matters

Companies will continue to experience the pressure to explore new and better approaches to secure talent and new ways to achieve outcomes. To be prepared, the high-performing organisations must consider all trends, and the practices that address them, as part of its workforce strategy.  Today and in the post-pandemic world of work that lies ahead, employers must continue to monitor and adapt to these trends in order to effectively connect the best talent to potential business outcomes.