Strategy lets companies extract more value from workers, but education system needs to adapt, says Adecco boss
As we continue to undergo digital disruption, the reality of what we will see today and tomorrow is that a lot of new jobs will be created and a lot of current jobs will be transformed.
The challenge will be in the synchronisation of job destruction and job creation. And that underlines the importance of reskilling and upskilling, which allows people to get that new kind of job or to acquire the skills needed to continue in their current job as it is transformed, says Alain Dehaze, chief executive of Adecco Group.
By 2030, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, “Jobs Lost, Jobs Gained: Workforce Transitions in a Time of Automation”, as many as 375 million workers – or roughly 14 per cent of the global workforce – may need to switch occupational categories as digitisation, automation and advances in artificial intelligence disrupt the world of work.
These 375 million people will have to be reskilled and upskilled by 2030, says Dehaze
He says the report finds that many kinds of jobs will be disrupted, including jobs eliminated through technology being used in highly repetitive processes. On the other hand, technology will create a lot of new jobs, as entire industries emerge and companies are formed. And that offers many opportunities.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will have a major impact on everybody’s life, as it either replaces some work now done by people or amplifies the work done by people. “AI is like electricity – when electricity was invented its first application was light. People can create ways to apply electricity,” Dehaze says.
“From just that one invention, you can see all the new products that have been developed. With AI, it is exactly the same. We are at the beginning of AI. We started with chatbots, and as this continues the applications grow, creating more and more new products. So AI is like a kind of electricity.”
He says companies need to anticipate their futures, so that on the one hand they can reskill their people to ensure the company’s production remains efficient and on the leading edge. On the other hand, the companies must innovate.
“It is important to survive and to embrace the future to create new products, new services. Because if you do not do it, others will do it for you. So if you want to stay competitive, you need to innovate,” said Dehaze.
There are two aspects to this, he says. One is to reskill and upskill people, because to find a data scientist,
for example, is not easy. For many companies, it is easier to retrain or reskill their internal people to a level of basic competency. Employees who have been taught new data science skills, for example, will do a great job because they know the company and the
New or upgraded skills are needed in many key areas of work, especially those developing digital capabilities, the use of data and the science of data, to amplify people’s work or to work in different ways. Workers need to acquire knowledge about how to leverage data.
“It does not mean you have to become a data scientist or a data engineer, but you need to understand how you can apply AI in the work you do today – this is very important,” says Dehaze.
The second challenge of innovation is to upgrade the education system itself to provide the required workforce skills. The system must be able to develop these capabilities in the workforce of today and tomorrow and meet the needs of business.
“It is the big challenge,” says Dehaze. “Because the world is moving very fast, we do not know what the new jobs will be. Six people out of 10 in the ecosystem will do a job that does not exist today. That means that it is difficult for a high school or university to know which capabilities they have to teach. That is why life-long learning is very important.”
The way that education and work has functioned in the past is almost finished. In the past, people learned for 15 to 20 years, and then worked for 40 to 45 years. Now, people study three years, work for three years or work in parallel [with learning], because people lose 30 per cent of their competency every four years. People need to permanently adapt themselves.”
In the past, the education system provided knowledge. Today people can acquire knowledge via the Internet. Schools and universities have to become places where people learn how to learn, learn to apply their knowledge, says Dehaze.
“Ideally, the curriculum of education should be strongly influenced by the businesses or by [society’s] needs. Absolutely, I recommend this and we can help design the curriculum,” he says.
Moreover, the education system needs to understand the new generations, the millennials and Gen Z, who are purpose-driven. They all want to have an impact in the world, especially a social impact and want to improve the world. A company must have a strong purpose if they wish to attract skilled employees from these generations, he says.
They also want flexibility, a better balance between private life and professional life. It is important to recognise these needs so that the company can fulfil them. These generations also want to learn, says Dehaze. The company needs to fit their needs by giving these people a project with new challenges. It is the responsibility of the company to attract and retain younger generations to join its workforce.
Freelancing trend grows
Another global working trend is towards freelancing. Today in the US, 30 per cent of the labour force is freelancing and this will grow to 50 per cent by 2025. Also, 47 per cent of the new graduates entering the labour market are freelancing. This trend is spreading, including within Thailand, where about 4 million people are freelancers.
“A lot of people in the younger generations want to be freelance, to have flexibility between their private and professional lives. They want much more project driven [work], and they want more freedom,” says Dehaze. “They are also interested in seeking out work, discovering ways to work on their own independently. On the other side, the companies that want to hire these freelancers, need to discover how to find them.”
This led Adecco to create a digital platform, YOS, which allows companies to outline the work they need done and for freelancers to come to the platform and match their supply with the labour market’s demands.
“We co-created, with Microsoft, to develop YOS – your own boss – your one-stop shopping, the digital platform for freelancers,” says Dehaze.
The platform is able to develop new services and products in the huge freelance market, which is three-times larger than the traditional staffing market.
“Adecco every year does a lot to help millions of unemployed people to get a job. We know what kinds of needs the companies have, and know what kinds of skills the candidates have or do not have. If they have skills we place them in companies, but if they do not have the skills we can train them in a lot of competencies and make them employable. It is important and it is how we can get millions of people to find a job, to get the income they need, to get the future, to be able to live on their own,” says Dehaze.
He says Adecco always does three things – adding more digital aspects into its processes such as chatbots at work; co-creating digital trends for existing activities by, for example creating a digital platform called Adia; and investing in innovation by, for example, acquiring a company doing fully automated ways of permanent recruitment.
“We have launched Adia in four countries, but not yet in Thailand.” says Dehaze. Adia is aimed at revolutionising the industry by matching talent supply and demand more effectively and managing that talent more efficiently. “Targeting candidates and clients across multiple industry segments such as hospitality, events, logistics and many more, Adia makes it possible for employers to find temporary staff for short-term assignments and provides a brand new experience to both clients and candidates,” he says.
The platform’s algorithm matches jobs to workers based on skills, level of experience, and proximity to the place of work as well as the job seeker’s real-time availability. The user can hire new staff, plan shifts, issue contracts and approve timesheets from this platform, all in real-time.