Do we really have a talent crisis?

Based on the latest PWC CEO survey, “New Zealand CEOs are being ‘kept awake at night’ as a nation-wide shortage of people with digital skills threatens local businesses”. The survey highlights that while the problem of talent crisis is felt globally, it perceived to be bigger in New Zealand. The focus is on what is called digital skills with jobs for data scientists, designers and programmers being particularly hard to fill. PWC mentions in their report that this issue of talent has been raised a few years ago and so far we are not seeing enough progress to solve it.

The talent crisis – origins

I believe that the talent crisis and the environmental crisis originated from the same fundamental values and beliefs of the western society that we are living in. Some of these beliefs are:

  • Economic growth is the most important indicator of success – this is in many cases exclusive or at least dominating indicator for growth in the political, financial and businesses agendas. It was interesting and encouraging to read the New Zealand Treasury publication of the Living Standards Framework.
  • Mass production and efficiency – the belief that these are the best ways to achieve abundance needed for human consumption. This fundamental belief drives our education system and management systems.
  • Consumption – We are now obsessed with the notion that consuming goods is the best and in many cases the only way for happiness.
  • Progress – the belief that has driven the industrial revolution that technology will solve all human problems and hence with technology innovation progress will continue forever. The climate changes are a good example to why we should view everything as complex and interdependent.

The talent crisis – possible ways forward

Climate changes and pollution are a clear symptom of the environmental crisis. It is now forcing most governments, financial institutions, scientists, and organisations to take actions. The talent crisis is not yet that visible. However assuming it caused by the same beliefs, I suggest we take a similar approach to address it. This approach has to go as deep as changing our beliefs:

  • Take a holistic approach– Human talent is diverse and it brings value in many and sometimes unpredictable ways.  I believe that in order to create the talents of the future we should consider redefine talents, how these are being applied and how we reward talents that are creating value in paid and non-paid jobs.
  • Sustainable behavior – Organisations can approach talents in a way that improves people, community, and overall social performance as well as meet their own needs. For example: spending effort and time discovering already existing talents within an organisation before trying to replace or buy externally, sharing skills that are in short supply by creating and supporting true freelancer’s open market, considering and having clear strategies for an ongoing retirement of skills and the development of new ones.
  • Self-management – enable an environment that allows people to grow and develop their own talents in their own unique way. Businesses and management should step away from trying to control how people enabled in this environment and allow more flexibility in applying their talents in unexpected and creative ways.
  • Nurture diversity and interdependency – environment strategies emphasise the critical role that biodiversity plays in the earth overall health. In a similar way, organisations should focus on developing strategies that nurture the diversity and focus on enabling collaboration and interdependency






@Hadas Wittenberg is a future of work enabler

The probable future might not favor most humans

It seems that in the last few months, everyone is joining in on the predictions and speculations regarding the Future of Work and the anxiety levels regarding this topic are increasing. It is not hard to see why many are confused:

  1. The first signs of mega changes in big corporates, where a significant number of jobs are dramatically changing or altogether disappearing.
  2. The war for the scarce skills required with the emerging new technologies and new ways of working is heating up.
  3. The lack of clarity on an individual level about the future of work.

In essence, we are looking at three megatrends:

  1. Technology – e.g. Big Data, Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning, Nanotechnology, cloud and Internet of things.
  2. Globalisation and socio-economic and demographic changes –e.g. mobility of people and goods, aging population, millennials.
  3. Social expectations – i.e. transparency, distribution of knowledge, no hierarchies, equality and diversity, convergence.

Personally, I don’t share Elon Musk’s warning about “Artificial Intelligence as an existential threat to mankind” being optimistic and hopeful, I believe we as humans will do better. However, I do think a crisis is looming and if we do nothing the future might not favor most humans.  I call it the talent crisis. How we as Humans adapt to this changing world is the key to what is possible and what is probable.

The future of work – The invincible syndrome of the professionals

I like to use the analogy of a product when describing talents. Consider your collection of abilities, skills, knowledge education and experiences as your unique and valuable talents products. In a digital era, it will be wise to continually adapt your products, through being agile and tentative to the market expectations, focus on what is valuable, being ahead of the competition by pivoting all the time, keeping relevant.  Think about Netflix and the blockbuster chain and now original content creation, Uber and the taxi companies and now food delivery. How many of us actively continuously working to be ready when disruption to our own jobs will come?

The future of work – The (non) relevancy of career paths

We start to assemble talent at kindergarten, and then batched by age we go through the education system and then work, mostly dictated by the subjects we picked up at school and usually one job at a time. At doing that we became addicted to job titles and career promotions. The problem life is not linear; the notion that you can take your subjects learned at schools like Math and English and apply these to real-life problems is redundant.  Talents evolve organically and now also rapidly. We create our lives as we explore our talents and vice versa and we have to adapt our learning in that way.

The future of work – Best practice does not favor humans

The other big issue is the lack of diversity inherent in the system (known as best practice). Human talent is tremendously diverse. People have very different abilities and preferences. But most systems (education and work) are not designed for accepting diversity; they are more like production lines designed for efficiency. So the reason so many people are opting out of education, or left behind at work is that it doesn’t feed their passion. We have to start enabling a way in which people understand and recognise their own talents as early as possible and are encouraged and enabled to develop their own solutions of how to grow, nurture and use their talents for value creation.

In recent weeks I traveled the country talking to many people about the future of work and I am hopeful with the talents and passion I met and the shared concern for the future. However, we are still missing a sense of urgency and a call for action on every level. The future of work requires new and different mix of humans’ talents and the catch is that these talents are also the ones required in order to design it. So are you doing something about it, or waiting for what is probable?

@Hadas Wittenberg is a Future of Work enabler