Preparing Tomorrow’s Talent: It’s Time to Take Action

There’s a lot of buzz these days about the outlook for tomorrow’s talent. Global businesses and higher education institutions acknowledge that change is happening and they need to adapt, but don’t know where to start.

We talk about the skills gap, and why so many jobs go unfilled even as millions of people can’t find work. We discuss intelligent technologies and how they’re changing jobs. We talk about college graduates with staggering loan debts struggling to enter the workforce.

Yet too much of this talk is occurring at the 50,000-foot level when we need to hit the ground running. People are the heart of our businesses, and talent should be at the forefront of business strategy.

Think of it this way: when an organization faces a new threat, what does it do? It prepares. If a competitor starts to take away market share, it develops an aggressive plan to get it back. If a business models shifts in its industry, it creates a strategy to adapt. We must recognize that lack of insight and preparedness around tomorrow’s talent is a threat to the success of our organizations and the health of our society.

Rather than talking about it at such a high level, let’s get more specific. For example, here are some areas all business leaders need to better understand and communicate:

  • Skills. What future skills do we need to support our business strategies and changes within our organizations, and what are our plans to acquire those skills or reskill workers?
  • Partnerships. Are we pursuing, or do we need to pursue, collaboration opportunities in the wider community with higher education, training, or workforce development organizations?
  • Infrastructure and resources. How will we fund and build the needed programs, and find the people to support them?

Some leaders are very in touch with these areas because their companies have had to reskill significant portions of their workforces to support new business models or adapt to new technologies. But the reality is many of us are still in the early stages of understanding the problem.

Working Together for Tomorrow’s Talent

At Workday, we’re in a unique position. We don’t just care about the future of talent; we’re also building technologies that will meet the needs of the current and future workforce, and help organizations attract and retain that workforce.

We’re also bringing together leaders from our different customer communities—from leading higher ed institutions to emerging disruptors to some of the largest global organizations—for conversations with non-profit organizations and policymakers on how to collaborate.

Here’s how we see a path forward:

  • Establish shared responsibility. Rather than pointing fingers at who should be driving this effort, it’s important we recognize that all of us must take responsibility. To be successful and identify strategies that work across industries and demographics, we need to be transparent about the reality and together, find solutions.
  • Have more productive conversations. By gathering stakeholders in the same room, conversations can start to move from worry to hope as everyone establishes a way to work together. At Workday, we have the ability to facilitate these conversations and recently had some great success at our first workforce development conference, Workday Opportunity Onramps. The event brought together businesses, non-profit workforce development organizations, and consulting firms to share ideas and results around programs they’ve implemented that provide career opportunities to nontraditional candidates. We’ll keep the productive conversations going next month at Bloomberg’s Tomorrow’s Talent: A Forum for Business and Education Leaders, a full-day symposium sponsored by Workday.
  • Build ethically. All of us involved in the creation of new technologies need to continually work on the question of how we build them in an ethical and responsible way. Rather than eliminate opportunities for people through innovation, we need to use technology to create new and better opportunities.
  • Rethink education. Starting early on, we need to create a culture of lifelong learners. To succeed in the evolving world of work—whether it’s the emergence of new technologies or growing importance of soft skills—education needs to be not just a diploma, but something that is provided at every point in the employee lifecycle. The responsibility to make this happen exists not only in traditional higher ed institutions but at the business leadership and policy level as well.

Now is the time to join forces and take action on behalf of tomorrow’s talent. We’re delighted to be a part of this movement at Workday, and hope you’ll join us in establishing a clear path forward.

Are you a senior leader in HR, IT, finance, or higher education? Request an invite to join Leighanne Levensaler and others for Bloomberg Next’s Tomorrow’s Talent: A Forum for Business and Education Leaders, a full-day symposium on June 28 in New York.