Skills shortage will remain a global growth obstacle

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A skills shortage will continue to remain an obstacle for global growth recovery, and the HR industry should adopt the green words of “retain, reuse, recycle and refresh” for people in the workplace.

Kevin Wheeler, a US futurist on employment, a consultant to Fortune 500 companies such as Toyota and Apple and lecturer at two San Francisco universities, says the current trend of making people redundant is an example of failed workforce planning.

In New Zealand as an associate of Talentmap, a New Zealand-based HR strategic consulting company, he has been presenting to key Talentmap corporate, DHB and government department clients in Wellington and Auckland on alternative ways to save jobs and money.

Talentmap and Mr Wheeler have a long-standing, close association that is reflected in their shared philosophies and joint consulting work they deliver throughout Asia-Pacific to their clients.

The New Zealand Government was looking for ways to cushion the workforce from redundancies with schemes such as a nine-day fortnight, but they could provide leadership to avoid the present employment binge and purge cycles.
“Some companies are getting rid of staff today, but in the not-too-distant future when the recovery starts they’ll be re-employing them all back again at an enormous cost,” Mr Wheeler says.

He predicts that thousands of workplace functions that exist at the moment wouldn’t be around when the recovery starts. In their place will be tens of thousands of new jobs requiring new skills.
“There won’t be a shortage of people — there will be a shortage of people with the right skills to carry out the new functions that will emerge.”
He says the universities could only ever hope to deliver education that was needed last year, and would never be in a position to predict and establish skills that would be needed next year.

“The need for new skills will accelerate the trend for on-the-job training that delivered results that were faster, quicker and cheaper than classroom training,” he says.
“Technology is already creating networks of like-minded people who would communicate with each other and work out ways to solve common problems.

“Already people are increasingly turning to Google for answers to questions, or solutions to problems.
“Two hundred years ago when a farmer had a problem he wandered over to his neighbour and got advice on how to solve it. The online networks will work much the same way,” Mr Wheeler says.

He also predicts the Generation Y values of those people aged under 30 would dominate the workplace and society.
These values included honesty, ethical integrity, and career goals of meaningful work, with fun ahead of financial gain that would rapidly replace the asset gathering and money-orientated baby boomer culture that dominates today.

Generation Y would seek flexible workplaces and working conditions, and would question the need to drive to work at a certain time every day to carry out functions they could be doing at home or on the beach over an agreed delivery time.

The notion of sustainability — just enough and not too much — is significant to Generation Y, and they would apply this to people in the workforce.
He predicts these massive changes to be in place around the world within five to 10 years, even though the baby boomers were hanging on to their jobs and retiring much later than the generation before them.