Opinion: Reskill your workforce to navigate the new normal
Business leaders have found staying positive an increasingly challenging exercise whilst COVID-19 rips through our communities and economy fuelling a huge rise in unemployment and redundancy.
According to the Office of National Statistics, in the UK, more people were made redundant between July and September 2020 than at any point on record as the pandemic laid waste to large parts of the economy. In January, UK unemployment rose to 5%, the highest level in five years.
The good news is that, recently, there have been signs that the economy will rebound strongly, especially with the vaccine's continuing rollout. However, even with recovery looking better than expected, we have to acknowledge the hard facts around some of the roles caught up in the redundancy programmes. Many won't come back.
The amount of disruption combined with automation, digital transformations, and even changing customer expectations, will be sending some roles to the out-of-date pile.
So, what can business leaders do to mitigate the impact?
The easy answer is that business leaders need to not just think short term but start reskilling or upskilling their talent with a skill set that is going to be essential. But what exactly does that mean?
Right now, everyone is talking about reskilling or upskilling, but it can be increasingly complicated to understand what this means in practice and where to focus limited resources. Making sure the right choices are taken in this process will make a difference. It can be easy to focus on technical skills but in reality, as automation and the speed of digitalisation continues, other skills are actually becoming much more important.
The World Economic Forum has highlighted the critical skills for 2025 and beyond. The top five are as follows:
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Complex problem-solving
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Creativity, originality and initiative
Internal entrepreneurship as a pathway for success
The fastest way to evolve a corporate to be ready for the future and build in the agility and speed that will help navigate the disruption is to empower teams in all areas of the business with these identified critical skills and the freedom to implement them. The challenge of reskilling and upskilling becomes how to instil these skills into an organisation at scale.
The answer for many is internal entrepreneurship as a pathway for success. Entrepreneurism has often been considered a bit of a dangerous tool at many businesses. With the standard approach of control, point and direct, this craft's unexpected nature can often seem at odds with the corporate way of life.
But what most organisations have learned or are learning the hard way is that today, due to the speed and impact of the disruption and change, it isn't just about acting like a startup, it's about operating like a startup. It's the only way to gain the flexibility and pace needed to succeed in today's world. And that means embracing entrepreneurship internally and the critical skill set that it builds.
When looking at how to implement this strategic imperative across your business fast, the most effective way is to tie it back into real life, learn-by-doing opportunity building moments that don't just share a concept but instil the mindset of startup thinking. Theory is not enough to embed the skills into your organisation. Attaching entrepreneurial startup thinking upskilling and reskilling programmes with your innovation programmes or new initiatives or product lines to build while you learn will give it the buy-in to take hold.
Product line or solution owners should be jumping at this approach. When 9 out of 10 products fail, internal entrepreneurial programmes are a unique approach that could reduce failure rates. They create space for these new skills to drive creativity and innovation to change the game. The impact can be limitless.
But it's not just about upskilling or reskilling. We know it’s often cheaper to use upskilling and reskilling rather than release and employing new staff. However, sometimes, as COVID-19 has shown, it becomes inevitable with our current business structures as they are. But what if you could extend how you manage your talent requirements with a startup outskilling programme to build in more flexibility and reduce the risk of forced redundancies?
Create a startup outskilling programme
Businesses could circumvent redundancies on mass and help their talent manage their careers by strategically moving people who choose into startup outskilling programmes. This approach quite possibly could make an impact on the unemployment figure and on those hardest hit.
Living your corporate values and acting responsibly, this approach increases the opportunity for success for everyone involved, from a buoyant economy rebound through programmes focused on solving industry issues, you will benefit from or even world problems. Organisations who approach talent management and skilling across the entire lifecycle with entrepreneurship opportunities would become the future beacons for rock start talents to join. Helping you hire not fire the best.
By exploring startup thinking and entrepreneurial programmes internally, organisations as a critical element of your reskilling, upskilling and even outskilling strategies can redefine the relationship between the business and their teams and improve chances for everyone to create value.
Finding and launching that next wave of profitable growth at pace while managing talent across their lifecycle will be the difference between those that take this time of disruption head-on and survive and those who are taken down by it.
Chris Locke is CEO of UK and Europe at Rainmaking, a global venture builder and innovation consultancy that has engaged with more than 80 of the Fortune 500 corporates over the last decade, and helps build and scale more than 850 startups through the world’s largest industry focused accelerator programme, Startupbootcamp. Rainmaker works in partnership with the world’s biggest companies to maintain and grow shareholder value, with a focus on executing true business transformation that protects the business legacy whilst creating a positive environmental and societal impact
People Moves EMEA: Kearney, KPMG, Oliver Wyman, Skoda
It’s been a busy week for executive transitions across EMEA and especially in the world of consulting, with partner/CEO announcements at Oliver Wyman, KPMG and Kearney, and in the role of head of sustainability, with new CSO appointments at Laing O’Rourke and Syngenta Group.
We round up the biggest executive moves across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Nick Studer announced as CEO of consulting giant Oliver Wyman
Set to take the top job at consulting giant Oliver Wyman next month, Nick Studer has been named CEO and Dual President of the firm’s economic and brand consulting subsidiaries NERA and Lippincott and will be based in London. Having been with Oliver Wyman for more than two decades, becoming partner in 2003, Studer has since served in a variety of international leadership roles, including head of Global Corporate and Institutional banking Practice, before becoming managing partner at the start of 2021.
According to Dan Glaser, CEO of Oliver Wyman parent Marsh McLennan, Studer has not just led many of the firm’s practices, but he “has been a leading voice for change and a major driver of our Inclusion and Diversity agenda”.
Delphine Bourrilly to lead Kearney in France
Seasoned consultant Delphine Bourrilly has been appointed leader of consulting firm Kearney for France, one of the firm’s larger locations in Europe, becoming fifth head of the Paris office. Having been with Kearney for more than a decade, most recently leading the Leadership, Change and Organisation practice across Europe, Bourrilly has an array of client successes under her consulting belt, including overseeing an operating model transformation at a large retailer. Prior to this, she spent five years at UBS. According to Geir Olsen, Head of Europe at Kearney, Bourrilly’s “talent, energy and charisma will be critical in leading Kearney through its next growth phase in France”.
Roland Villinger becomes head of corporate and product strategy, Skoda Auto
A consulting veteran, Roland Villinger has been appointed head of Skoda Auto’s corporate and product strategy, a newly created area for the Czech car manufacturer that combines two departments. Described by Skoda’s CEO Thomas Schafer as “an international experienced leader and proven digital expert”, Villinger most recently oversaw the implementation of Volkswagen Group strategy and was also previously chief strategy officer and chief digital officer at Audi AG. Prior to this, he spent 25 years at consultancy McKinsey including serving as a senior partner and running McKinsey’s operations in the APAC region.
Hanan Alowain promoted to Partner, public sector, KPMG
Becoming the second Saudi female partner in the history of KPMG, Hanan Alowain has been promoted to Partner in the firm’s Public Sector function. With 14 years of experience in human capital and social development in the Kingdom, including the last three and a half years at KPMG, Alowain is a Harvard Business School graduate with extensive experience both in the public sector, as director of research and development for the Saudi government’s Ministry of Labour, and the private sector, including as a partner at investment & development group Eradah.
Vicky Bullivant named Laing O’Rourke’s first-ever group head of sustainability
Seasoned ESG leader Vicky Bullivant is joining Laing O’Rourke as its first-ever group head of sustainability from Drax Group where she was head of sustainable business and responsible for developing the firm’s climate ambition, social strategy and community and charity policies. Having led the world’s first company ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, and the UK’s first energy company to commit to improving skills and education for one million people by 2025, Bullivant boasts 25 years of ESG business experience in highly regulated sectors, FTSE 100 companies, government and NGOs.
Bullivant spent eight years at Experian, where she was head of corporate affairs and community, nearly four years as head of corporate responsibility at Eon, five years as group head of sustainability at Rolls-Royce, where she turned around the firm’s performance in the Dow Jones Sustainability index, as well as sustainability heads at Tate & Lyle and Drax Group.
Daniel Vennard joins Syngenta Group as new CSO
Former global director at the World Resources Institute Daniel Vennard has been appointed chief sustainability officer for Syngenta Group. Based in Basel, Switzerland, Vennard will be responsible for developing and implementing the Group’s sustainability into its business strategy. Bringing extensive experience in the development of sustainability strategies and in launching global sustainability programmes that deliver growth and impact, Vennard most recently served as global director at the World Resources Institute, Vennard founded the Better Buying Lab bringing together scientists to develop, test and scale innovations that help consumers opt for sustainable plant-based food.
Prior to this he spent 15 years at Mars and Procter & Gamble in sustainability, corporate strategy and marketing and brings “creativity and remarkable expertise in sustainability” that will “help us further advance regenerative farming practices and help mitigate the harmful effects of global warming”, says Erik Fyrwald, CEO, Syngenta Group.