Building a Stronger and More Resilient Workforce

June 30, 2020

Building a Stronger and More Resilient Workforce

With the pandemic affecting more than 5 billion people across the globe, the statistics are daunting. Many organizations are simply trying to survive as the pandemic has drastically shifted the way in which business is done. Workforces rightfully implemented short-term strategies to deal with the immediate impacts. As a result, many workers have been laid off, forced to reduce hours or take pay cuts. Now initiatives must be implemented to support the workforce and protect it for future disruptions.

As the reality of the new normal sets in, leaders need to look beyond the current state of the labor market to the opportunities this crisis might create, not only for their own communities but for the greater good of society. Predictions about the future of work and the proliferation of technology that many saw unfolding over years, has now been accelerated and unfolding in months. By taking action now, we can lay the foundation for a more resilient labor market.

With the inevitability of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, the opportunity is clear: accelerate community-wide reskilling efforts and match impacted workers to emerging and future skills to build back a better, more resilient workforce. The question is, how do we facilitate community-wide reskilling and manage the transition to a new future?

Analyze the Labor Market at a Granular Level

It’s important governments and organizations understand the current state of the labor market to implement effective strategies for the future. Traditionally, labor market analysis and forecasting is done by looking at postings from job boards, profiles and professional networks to collect supply-side information along with employment data based on payroll records and census data, then analyze course offerings and new types of training being done. The problem is there are millions of movements within these supply and demand factors and the pandemic has only exacerbated these movements into the billions.

If you are manually trying to track and capture this information quickly, it’s nearly impossible as there comes a point when you have to stop and interpret the data. By the time that data has been analyzed, there have been new movements and changes and the data becomes irrelevant. Due to COVID-19, the labor market is changing so rapidly, traditional methods are unable to provide valuable insights to support organizations, governments, and communities.

Today, with the use of artificial intelligence, we are able to capture these labor market movements and analyze them in real-time. Quantum labor analysis is an emerging methodology, which refers to the application of artificial intelligence to analyze a labor market at its most granular level—skills. It allows us to see what is happening in the market this week versus last week or today versus yesterday. During a crisis like COVID-19, there is an urgent need for real-time labor market information to better understand the current state of the market to help minimize effects on the workforce.

In conjunction, we also need to forecast the future state of the labor market. Typically, regression analysis is performed to predict labor market movements, which entails looking at data backwards, identifying what happened previously, and mathematically trend-forward the regression to forecast the future. With the use of artificial intelligence, we are able to extract data from forward-facing materials to forecast future demand shifts in the labor market. For example, quantum labor analysis has shown a double-digit decline in traditional skills but at the same time double-digit growth for digital literacy skills. With this data, we can forecast future and emerging skills to place workers on sustainable career paths.

Connect Workers to Future Skills and Jobs

By using real-time labor market information in tandem with forecasting future skills demand, we are able to connect job seekers to reskilling pathways more efficiently and effectively to minimize layoffs and better prepare for the future. 

The pandemic has caused a 10.5 percent decline in global working hours, which is the equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs. Many of these underemployed workers, as well as unemployed workers, have retained skills that can be easily reskilled to other areas within a business that requires more immediate attention or transferred to adjacent career paths.

In a recent labor market intelligence report, prepared by SkyHive for the State of New Jersey, there was a decrease in demand for frontline customer-facing skills. The fall of low-level customer service skills also saw the analogous rise of higher-level skills, which demonstrates a shift towards the rapid digitization of frontline entry-level skillsets in the customer service space. In addition to the digital transformation, many other areas of the economy are growing as a result of the pandemic such as science and health research and the green economy.

Accelerate Workforce Reskilling

Reskilling and upskilling are commonly misinterpreted. Reskilling is the process of acquiring new skills in the pursuit of other careers. In other words, it is a horizontal career move. On the other hand, upskilling is a vertical career move—the process of acquiring new skills while remaining on the same career trajectory.

Through innovative reskilling technologies, individuals can identify hidden and adjacent skills, skills gaps, and create targeted learning pathways to bridge those gaps. Reskilling engines automate the skills-mapping process, drastically increasing the speed of response. What would take organizations months to accomplish manually can be done in days. With the rise of online learning, there are plenty of options to support individuals on their reskilling pathways.

Reskilling is a collective effort. With the help of governments and organizations, 77 percent of all at-risk workers could be reskilled, reducing unemployment and lowering social costs. Governments and organizations should accelerate this process to retrain workers and fill skill gaps to minimize impacts on workforces while also preparing individuals for the post-pandemic economy. In the interim, underemployed or unemployed workers can use this time as an opportunity to reskill, access training, and gain future and emerging skills.

However, reskilling is not a one-time fix, it is an ongoing effort that is constantly changing, adapting, and shifting to labor market conditions. Economic shifts are bound to happen but we can put measures in place, such as reskilling pathways and ongoing skills-based job matching to minimize effects. The way we respond to the pandemic will shape our future workforce. There is an opportunity to use this time to lay the groundwork to strengthen our workforce for future disruptions. By taking steps now, forecasting future skills, and creating reskilling pathways, we can ensure communities thrive after the pandemic.

The Authors: 

Sean Hinton is Founder and CEO of SkyHive, a leading technology company that facilitates rapid workforce reskilling. He is also Co-Chair of the Entrepreneurs Circle of the Canadian American Business Council (CABC).