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Adapting to the future of work

August 3, 2020

COVID-19 has fast-tracked the evolution of our workforce. With many of us working remotely, industries shut down and others transformed, the workplace look drastically different to what it did even a few months ago.

In this climate, how can business adapt to not only the jobs of the future, but the people of the future as well?

This question was addressed in the first webinar of SVP’s Climate for Change series, building on the 2020 Shared Value Summit Asia Pacific. The webinar, titled ‘Creating the Workforce of the Future: Investing in Human Capital’, discussed how the workforce needs to adapt to a pandemic-disrupted and increasingly digital world.

Moderated by SVP CEO Helen Steel, the panel discussed how a key strategy to achieve this will be renewed investment in upskilling. Between the Australians who have lost jobs and face reduced hours, it is estimated that there are now a billion hours of time; time which would have been spent working, but could now be focused on training.

PwC’s Lead Partner for the Future of Work team Rebecca Smith proposed that businesses must prioritise the ‘human’ skills that people bring to the workplace by investing in creativity, communication, and problem solving, as well as technical skills.

“We need to start thinking about upskilling and reskilling as an investment. It has to be a strategic part of how we look at our people,” she said.

“It’s not just about the skills we need in the workplace—it’s the skills we need to live.”

Managing Director of Talent Rewire at FSG Nicole Trimble, added to this: “The pace of change is as fast as it’s ever been, and as slow as it’s ever going to be. Part of what we need to upskill our workers in is learning.”

COVID-19 is also causing widespread negative mental health effects, and has disproportionately affected women and people of colour. Considering employees through a shared value approach will be central to workforce recovery, and to building a mindset that is sensitive to employee needs and benefits the bottom line.

“The return on investment of understanding mental health as a leader is enormous,” said Trimble.

“Investing in employees is actually a really good business model, but changing mindsets about who is valuable and who is worthy of investment is the hard work.”

This mindset shift, Trimble suggested, disproportionately affects already-marginalised groups; presenting further challenges in how we create a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

In this way, COVID-19 provides a valuable opportunity to reevaluate corporate diversity holistically.

Trimble added: “You want people in your company at all levels who have the lived experience of your consumers. It’s not just about getting [minority employees] into jobs, it’s about keeping them in those jobs and advancing them.”

The role of government has also been rethought throughout the pandemic. As Australia’s federal government pilots the JobTrainer program, targeted at keeping apprentices and trainees employed, it is equally important to adopt a long-term view when investing in skills and training.

Smith called for stronger collaboration: “We need a better architecture to connect business, government and education to make sure that the skills we’re learning are the right skills for the future, but also that the access to those skills is available for everyone, not just those people working.”

Join the next webinar in the Climate for Change series, Building Resilient Supply Chains on Tuesday 25 August.