‘How can organisations make sure they have employees that are equipped for the future? We think this was the most important question in this survey,’ explains Bastiaan Starink. He and Richard Goldstein talk about the PwC survey into the organisational capacities associated with personnel policy and the need for employers to improve the agility of their personnel.
PwC collaborated with Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School, to investigate the main organisational capacities needed to recruit and retain appropriate personnel. The report contains five core areas of personnel policy:
The urgency of this topic is general accepted, says Starink, who is a PwC partner and addresses issues concerning People & Organisation. ‘The way in which we work can change quickly, partly due to factors like rapid technological development. On the one hand, jobs are being lost due to robotics and automation while, on the other hand, interesting new jobs are being created for people that possess suitable technological skills. Employers must thus recruit people that possess the new capacities they require, and retrain or further train existing personnel.’
Increased flexibility in the labour market is another factor, which means the days when people worked for the same employer all their lives are long behind us. Starink: ‘In the same way as technology, improved flexibility is part of the problem and also part of the solution. Employers will have to do more in order to find suitable employees. However, they will also have access to a larger talent pool because people are more likely to switch jobs.’
‘Besides these developments, we expect to see major personnel shortages in the public sector, both now and in the future,’ explains Richard Goldstein, who runs the public sector practice at PwC. ‘Technology can play a role in resolving these shortages, for example, by performing more work with fewer personnel.’ The example Goldstein provides is that of teachers, who will be able to place greater focus on guiding students, once administration and assessment become increasingly automated. New digital forms of learning can also help teachers to reduce or alter the classic approach to teaching.
Goldstein: ‘Technology can also be useful in healthcare, by reducing administrative duties for people who should be spending more time helping patients. No matter which technological solutions eventually materialise, a lot of work is needed in the public sector to make sure suitable employees are recruited. This must include people with appropriate service-related capacities, as well as people who know how to use technology to make work easier and better.’
The action points in the PwC survey relate to things like promoting vitality, making flexible work-related arrangements and establishing boundaries in a culture where people are expected to always be available. As far as Starink is concerned, improving agility is a very important issue. ‘Banks or insurers occasionally ask me to improve the sustainability of employees over the age of 55. Naturally, this is possible, but they are surprised to learn that the process should actually have started when employees were around 30. It is in the best interest of employers to show their employees that personal development is a continuous process: via job rotation, training courses and domestic and international exchange programmes.’
Goldstein points out that improving agility is particularly important in sectors and functions where it might not be self-evident. ‘Consider lecturers at professional training centres as an example. If they do not develop, they will not be able to keep performing the same work, to the same standard, until they are 67. For instance, technology and digitalisation probably plays an important role in just about every profession. Lecturers that provide professional training must keep updating their specific skills so they can continue to inspire students about their future profession.’
Goldstein and Starink are clear about where the responsibility lies. Starink: ‘The government and employers are responsible for stimulating the agility of personnel. Not only to make sure people can continue doing their existing job, but also to create flexibility that allows people to switch to sectors where demand is high. Naturally, employees must seize opportunities, but they can only do so once they have been offered.’
Finally, trade unions also play an important role in this, says Goldstein: ‘No one, including the trade unions, can retain jobs that have become obsolete due to technology. And, as far as I am concerned, it is no longer possible to return to a time when people were guaranteed one job for the whole of their working lives. Trade unions thus also bear a lot of public responsibility when it comes to making personnel more agile.’