Consumer confidence is at its highest in 17 years. Companies are investing, rapidly expanding, and of course, hiring. Unfortunately, they are quickly running out of qualified candidates. In addition to expected factors—demographic shifts, workers’ preferences, skills gap, location mismatch—there is another one at play: unwillingness to rethink work. This new imperative requires multiple shifts in how organizations look for, attract, develop, and retain talent.
From Job Descriptions to Work Design and Orchestration
Companies will continue to find it difficult to attract candidates that match job descriptions, especially if those descriptions require “unicorns.” The opportunity is arising for HR to distill the work to its essence and reconfigure what gets done by whom.
This brings flexibility in choices of talent (part time, contingents, stay at home moms with only 2-3 hours available, disabled individuals). It also demands new practices in orchestrating how the work gets done, measured, rewarded etc. The field of HR is facing a major disruption requiring adaptation of its traditional processes and norms to an agile, fluid, and distributed work environment.
From Traditional to Under-utilized Sources of Talent
Increases in life expectancy, population aging, women labor force participation–all impact the workforce composition and how organizations adapt to them. Despite the tight labor market, a sizeable segment of our population–for example women over 50–goes un-tapped, under-utilized, underpaid, or unemployed. When re-entering the workforce, women, have more difficulty sustaining their income level, let alone growing it.
The most shocking statistic is that half of the long-term unemployment in the US is comprised of women between 55 and 65. This segment will face financial insecurity because they will most likely outlive their spouses, marriages, and savings. On the other hand, women 55+ represent the single fastest growing age-gender segment of the American population in the labor force. Their share will account for more than 1/3 of additional workers entering the labor force over the next decade. This is a perfect example of a segment along with retired or seniors with big potential for companies to attract.
From Techno-phobia to Digital Fluency
Fear-inducing headlines about the machines taking over, artificial intelligence (AI) replacing humans, and millions of jobs disappearing are everywhere. Whether or not that will pan out is to be seen, but we can’t dismiss that both organizations and individuals need to consider the multiple aspects of digitization and prepare for it.
In order for anyone, especially women, to be competitive and have access to meaningful and fairly compensated jobs, they need to build skills that will be in demand over the next 3-5 years such as hybrid skills (both technical and social). This will bring a degree of future-proofing and enable them to stay in the workforce.
Equipped with technical and design skills, women can also influence the development of more inclusive technologies which in turn can open new customer segments and market opportunities to sell your products.
From Lay-offs to Upskilling
Over the past decade in pursuit of satisfying shareholders in a lackluster economy, companies focused on cost reductions, which would typically include a workforce reduction under the guise of skills obsolescence. With a turn to global growth and with fewer digitally-savvy candidates on the market, companies now have to rethink their workforce strategies and instead invest in upskilling of their workforce.
Ramping up takes multiple forms such as partnerships with educational institutions, with startups and most of this is investment in technical skills. Opportunity will be in supplementing those with hybrid skills. An example of a scalable model for growing hybrid skills, is provided by amazing.community. The non-profit creates a supportive environment for women to learn about design thinking, accessibility testing, AI and chatbots, then applying these skills to co-create a chatbot responsive to the needs of women 50+ (amazing.bot).
The idea is to distill complex topics into simple and digestible modules, build comfort level with them, and ultimately to lower the barriers of entry for non-digital-natives so they can transfer their skills to new spaces where jobs abound.
Upskilling is not only good for the business, but also is a responsible way to uplift communities, and have a positive impact on their brand, which in turn will attract more high-quality talent.
From Inherently Biased to Inclusive Hiring
People analytics use is on the rise. Algorithms are built to look at what made people successful in the past, creating models that rapidly sift through thousands of résumés to find the “optimal” individuals, and bring more of them into the organization.
There are some inherent flaws with this thinking–the definition of success in the past might not be what companies need for the future, and algorithms trained on old data might perpetuate old biases. It is important to raise awareness with hiring managers and recruiters about such flaws, especially when it is a matter of giving a chance to someone with a long résumé (typically also correlated with older age) that might have big career gaps (not always associated with typical “success” criteria).
From Pay Gap to Parity for All
Regardless of the progress we’ve made thus far, unfortunately, women still don’t get their fair share.Global gender parity is still over 200 years away. Analysis of 2017 Gender data from Visier’s Insight found that the gender pay gap widened in 2017 rather than becoming smaller. In 2016, women made 81 cents to the dollar, but in 2017, women made 78 cents to the dollar – that’s 22% less than men. Organizations have a long way to go to close the gap and there is no bigger urgency to take a stand than now.
Build-in Accessibility from Start
Digital technologies are changing how work gets done. Oftentimes such technologies are not inclusive (not designed with input from and consideration of the impact they will have on different segments of the population, especially the aging.) There is tremendous opportunity to re-think product design and development and create more accessible environments. This will impact the offerings’ reach and create a great sense of pride amongst the employees who are marginally involved in such work – leading to better engagement, retention and business results.
The status quo for workforce engagement is no longer an option and organizations better start thinking differently about their talent strategy and to devise more inclusive practices, processes and policies to create opportunities for a broader set of workforce segments. Women 50+ is a perfect example of an alternative talent segment – resilient, reliable and resourceful – that is ready to be engaged and involved! Are you ready for it?
Join the Inclusion by Design–a conference organized by amazing.community on Oct 23-24 in NYC to learn more about these shifts alongside leaders from the public, private and civic sectors. This is an opportunity to create real solutions, enable actions to help change the workplace narrative at the intersection of gender and age, and shape the future of work for women 50+. Register for this event today.
amazing.community, a nonprofit organization with the mission of expanding the work horizon for women and transforming the narrative about aging and innovation by redefining inclusive workplaces and equipping women 50+ to thrive in them.To learn more please visit www.amazing.community or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.