• Amanda Beatson

Whose job is it anyway?


As needs in our workforce change, what role should employers play in the transition?

Quite a big one, according to much of the latest commentary. Not because of any social obligation (although some definitely see this as important) but because growing talent is going to be the only way to secure it.

This year’s ManpowerGroup’s Skills Revolution Report forecasts that by 2022, 54% of employees will need significant re-skilling, requiring six months or more. It also reported that around 60% of employers intend to retrain their people, up significantly from 23% six years ago. Developing your existing team makes economic sense when you consider that it costs around 2.5 times more to recruit. However, this leap also reflects an understanding that talent shortages won’t be resolved by looking for new people, as there simply won’t be enough with the skills that will be needed. The days of just-in-time, talent-on-tap are fading fast.

In New Zealand, the numbers around re-skilling may differ slightly from ManpowerGroup’s global averages but the bottom line message is still the same. According to the ‘Future That Works’ report issued by the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council in May, “...automation and digitisation are already lifting the level of skills needed in the job market faster than New Zealand currently produces graduates.” This would come as no surprise to employers moving in the digital space.

Looking at the 2018 NZ workforce survey, 60% of employees undertook work-related training in the previous year (mostly on-the-job), which seems pretty solid until you see that the majority spent less than five days doing it. It would be interesting to see what the figures looked like if health and safety or other compliance courses were removed from the mix.

Regardless, referring back to ManpowerGroup’s predictions, this is clearly not the level of investment in learning needed to future-proof a career or business.

The SME element

A complicating factor in New Zealand’s situation is the dominance of small-to-medium sized enterprises, which comprise 97% of our businesses. While technological advances are making automation, AI and other benefits of the digital world more accessible to SMEs, they can lack time, certainty and resources to implement formal on-job training, which could exacerbate the skills gap. Ironically, lack of human talent will constrain the ability to fully realise technology’s production-boosting potential.

Culture gap

The up-skilling figures mentioned here represent a segment of a climbing curve. And while 60% of employers are committing to re-training their workforce, that still means a chunky 40% are not. UK research by Workfront (presented in this Microsoft report), revealed that a staggering 92% of CEOs believe their business model will not survive digital disruption, yet less than 25% are taking action on cultural change.

This is real head-in-the-sand stuff. Unless employers and employees engage in a culture of continuous learning, we will continue to be plagued by skill shortages, job disruption and associated business and social challenges. According to ManpowerGroup, “Companies need to be able to adapt to quicker talent cycles than they have done in the past…[they] can no longer be purely consumers of work. They need to be builders of talent cycles, helping people develop their resilience and ability to move from this role to that.”

Here, the Aotearoa New Zealand Skills Pledge (which emerged from the Future that Works report recommendations) is an attempt to focus more employers on this challenge. Those that sign commit to helping people “...access the tools and skills needed to make their contribution to the future of work and not to feel left behind as technology and innovation march forward.”

Whether employers drive the change or employees take things into their own hands, one thing is abundantly clear: the future belongs to the learners.

Build your organisational talent or future-proof your career with our Master of Technological Futures. Now available as a part-time option to make it even easier to learn while you earn. Find out more here.


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Tech Futures Lab is an education facility of The Mind Lab, a NZQA registered Tertiary Education Organisation under the provisions of the Education Act 1989. Candidates who are studying on a programme delivered by Tech Futures Lab are enrolled with The Mind Lab.