The below article is based on the keynote delivered at Zinnov Confluence 2021. Watch video to view the full discussion or scroll down to read.
Globally, several countries have pledged to move to a net-zero emissions economy in response to the growing outcry over the severity of climate change. Economies are setting ambitious carbon-neutral goals & developing roadmaps to achieve them sustainably resulting in net-zero pledges covering over two-thirds (68%) of the global economy.
While this involves rethinking several aspects of modern work, one key variable that tends to be left out is the workforce itself. In modern-day business, the workforce is the most important tangible asset for organizations and it needs to be a part of the global initiative.
We need to identify how our journey to sustainability will impact the workforce, and more importantly, how rethinking the workforce can help us achieve our carbon-neutral goals quicker.
Given the gravity of this undertaking, most companies are setting a timeline of 2050-2060 to fully realize the potential of low-carbon employment.
Of the world’s 2000 largest public companies, at least one-fifth (21%) now pledge to net-zero goals. Large-scale supply chain optimizations, operations optimization, and infrastructure development strategies are consistently being re-evaluated.
When it comes to the workforce itself, enterprises are now resorting to skilling and reskilling their workforce to support sustainable goals. However, certain parameters can have a substantial impact on the initiative if left unchecked. Let us have a look at these key parameters impacting global sustainability goals.
Key Parameters impacting Sustainability goals
Draup conducted an interesting study in the last quarter with respect to de-carbonization. We reached out to about 50 global enterprises to understand their plans for sustainability. The inquiry was to understand primary enablers and barriers for achieving sustainability goals in the next 10 to 20 years for these companies.
One of the most common barriers we came across was reskilling the workforce as well as hiring for the right digital skills to achieve the goals of sustainability.
The two most asked questions by the enterprises reflected concerns around skillsets, and they included:
- How do I transport my existing industrial skills into the sustainable world of skills?
- How do I bring in more digital skills and tech skills to put new technologies in place?
Recent developments indicate that many organizations have already started using technology to train their employees on their sustainability goals. AR/VR-based interactive learning and GIS-enabled Field Surveillance apps are driving enhanced skilling and reskilling.
Public entities, including Fortum and EDF, are using AR/VR to train operators and technicians for better work methods without hurting the environment. Similarly, private entities such as ComEd and GE Power are also engaged in AR/VR to drive the more significant change.
Other potential parameters that pose a severe impact on the sustainability goals include:
- Technology maturity
- Private and public investments
- Skilled workforce availability
- Supportive government policies
- Awareness among customers
Let us explore how enterprises can develop a healthy, purposeful workforce to reach net-zero emissions.
Bridging the Supply-Demand Gap
IT executives see the talent shortage as the most significant adoption barrier to 64% of emerging technologies, compared with just 4% in 2020. A lack of talent availability was cited far more often than other barriers this year, such as implementation cost (29%) or security risk (7%).
The table below indicates the current demand versus the current supply of tech talent mapped across 500 MSAs around the globe.
Probably the most repeated prognostication in the industry since AI arrived was that robots are taking over human jobs; however, the truth is there aren’t enough humans to take these jobs. A recent global talent study found that by 2030, there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 Mn people. If left unchecked, this shortage could result in about USD 8.5 Tn in unrealized annual revenues.
The need of the hour is to train candidates and equip them with in-demand technological skills apart from coursework to mitigate the scarcity of employable talent. Reskilling them using AI-powered talent intelligence tools can result in creation of better career paths and faster transitions since time is of the essence here.
Another focus area should be on Diversity & Inclusion on an organizational scale. Over 47% of millennials intend to work at diverse companies, but a lack of workforce diversity and unconscious bias is becoming a barrier in tech.
According to a survey, 91.5% of all developers are men. Only 8.0% are women, and 1.2% are non-binary, genderqueer, or gender non-conforming. The tech industry suffers from a lack of diverse talent, and employers can’t afford to lose out on underrepresented groups with technical skills.
Adoption of Remote work and Gig workforce
A recent survey found that 39% of people would consider quitting if their employer wasn’t flexible about remote work. That figure sits even higher among millennials and Gen Z at 49%.
This pandemic resulted in a mindset shift as employees now prefer the comfort of their homes to work rather than an office. Some employees wish to return to work while others request remote work resulting in the collective demand for hybrid work, which is also a significant reason for “The Great Resignation” movement that is currently active.
One of the significant advantages of adopting remote/hybrid work is the potential to hire from a global talent pool. Organizations can leverage worldwide talent and recruit highly-trained individuals without location becoming a barrier in the process.
The pandemic significantly raised the value of freelancers, as we have witnessed over the last 1.5 years. This is the beginning of the large-scale inclusion of the gig economy into corporate operations. Freelancers are not only independent but also come with a range of relative skillsets, making them attractive to corporate preferences.
Developing Early-career talent
A recent survey indicated that 83% of senior managers are more likely to hire early career talent, citing enthusiasm about starting a career and fresh perspectives and ideas as their top strengths.
Early talent is a group of those with less than three years of work experience. This group typically comprises talent about to graduate from college or recent graduates.
With the forward-thinking skills required to lead employers through digital transformation, this group is proving to be extremely valuable to modern-day businesses.
When you add these factors to early talent’s drive to succeed and the ability to navigate technologies, it’s no surprise that top global enterprises are already pursuing innovative recruiting methods to hire from the largest talent pool available.
Also, L&D efforts, when applied to early talent, result in much greater transformations since this group tends to be flexible in their approach, as opposed to older talent, who might be set in their ways. They don’t come with preconceived notions about company processes, and recruiting them is mutually rewarding as they grow their skillsets while companies benefit from their dedication.
Reskilling with Carbon-neutral skills
The significance of reskilling has increased manifold, especially in the current volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business environment. Companies not taking reskilling into their agendas will soon find themselves in a vulnerable position.
Reskilling provides a range of benefits to employers that help in better operations and help sustain better financials. Some of the prime benefits of reskilling include:
- Retain company knowledge by reducing attrition rates.
- Provide employees with more options to move into adjacent teams within the organization.
- Improve employee morale by supporting skill upgrade initiatives.
- Encourage upward mobility for ambitious employees.
- Motivate personal growth by helping employee careers stay relevant through continuous learning & skills acquisition.
Reskilling with carbon-neutral skills is a win-win for both employers and employees. For employees, it’s equipping them with the necessary skills they need to support the larger initiative while making a significant impact. For employers, it’s investing in their talent, which is far more cost-effective than attracting and onboarding new talent.
Recently, we have seen various talent hotspots emerge across the globe but not at the pace companies desire, leaving reskilling to be the primary choice in this scenario.
Net-zero pledges aimed towards a sustainable world would be fruitful only if the existing workforce is taken on board. Leveraging your existing workforce and re-orienting your talent management to align with the above-mentioned data-backed practices will empower organizations to reach their goals for low-carbon employment quicker than current best estimates.