As we close the second quarter and enter the dog days of summer, there’s a sense of polarity to the current business climate. While many are taking hard-earned PTO or enjoying company-wide “wellness weeks,” others are heads-down in the office, plowing through backlogs of work or making tough decisions about the path forward in this tenuous economic moment. Scrolling endless headlines about the economy, unrest, and pandemic conditions, it’s understandable that after over two years, most of us are just fatigued by the uncertainty of it all.
At SkyHive, we are innovating to meet the skills demands of world’s top global employers, educators, and governments – and while we are all about leveraging the power of big data and Quantum Labor AnalysisTMto suss what’s going on in the marketplace, sometimes what we’re HEARING in the field is just as important as what we’re SEEING in the data. As part of a new quarterly series to create space for community in our ecosystem, here’s what we’re hearing from clients on the ground - a “hive mind” if you will, of what talent leaders across the globe are pondering and talking about:
Waiting for the other (economic) shoe to drop: Anticipating a contraction amplified by recent news of layoffs and leading indicators of recession, most companies have started engaging in some anticipatory belt-tightening, including streamlining discretionary spending, postponing capital projects, or pausing hiring. That said, the U.S. jobs reports were released for the month of June last week...and after all that build-up and anxiety, the result was...NADA! Despite a flurry of news reports about layoffs, hiring freezes, and rescinded offers, the U.S. numbers showed that the labor market continues to remain tight. All sectors except the public sector added jobs, and the overall unemployment rate held steady at 3.6%, according to BLS data. While layoffs tend to be a lagging indicator of economic conditions, SkyHive LMI analysis did observe a significant drop in global job postings during the second quarter, perhaps mirroring some of the layoffs observed within the tech sector, as well as underscoring the caution with which employers are proceeding amidst economic uncertainty. As a significant component of company’s administrative costs, labor is a natural area of focus for cost containment. While most employers are not yet signaling an intention to downsize, efforts are currently being made to understand how to how to preserve skills capital and avoid cutting too deeply should restructuring become necessary in the future.
Recession or no, skilled talent remains tough to find: Despite the macroeconomic storm clouds, our customers are continuing to voice challenges with hiring skilled workers and filling critical vacancies. While the frontline labor supply has eased somewhat, skilled talent remains as difficult to hire as ever, potentially presenting even greater economic headwinds long-term. Given the overall tightness of the labor market, employers are hesitant to lay off workers – particularly after several years of fighting to identify and recruit this top talent. Talent leaders are instead looking to analytics and technology to get a better sense of each employee’s skills, identify the critical roles that create the most value for the organization, and examine strategic ways to align the two for increased productivity and profitability in an inflationary climate, as well as part of an overall employee retention and internal mobility strategy. Additionally, companies continue to focus on how to engage and retain top performers, both as a response to continued fallout from the Great Resignation(which is not predicted to end this year -- if ever), as well as to address growing concerns around employee engagement and burnout. One silver lining in recent research around retention is that preventable attrition can be stemmed by investing in career development and specialized upskilling, a win-win for valued employees and their employers...*IF* it is personalized to the employee’s skills and aspirations and aligned with the company’s needs.
Becoming a “skills-first” organization would be easier...if we could all speak the same language: Workforce transformation is hard to do, but the general sentiment from across the talent ecosystem is a consistent “there’s got to be a better way.” Leaders express frustration with the time, effort, and expense to develop and maintain a static skills taxonomy or competency framework – an enterprise project that can take anywhere from 1-2-4+ years to deploy, often necessitating the expertise of consultants, and which rapidly becomes dated as the dynamic labor market shifts in increasingly unpredictable ways. And why are there so many taxonomies? Which one is the right one? How do you get them to “talk” to each other? Keep them current? Feedback from the field ranges from the desire for a global master translation table or “Rosetta Stone” for skills that permits systems with differing underlying definitions to communicate, as well as the need for global skills data that incorporates multiple taxonomies and harmonizes them. In the more future-focused discussions, we observe a preference of leaders to leverage the power of big data to create ‘fluid’ ontologies that respond to labor market shifts dynamically and can relate skills to one another in meaningful ways that evolve with the future of work – a feature that is embedded in the SkyHive DNA! The consensus amongst talent leaders is that a skills-based approach is best practice, but there’s still a ways to go in terms of interoperability and alignment across the workforce ecosystem and across the HR tech stack. Amidst the plethora of HR technology options and challenges of procuring and integrating complex solutions to meet the needs of the business, HR’s role is becoming as much a technology and data role as it is that of a business partner.
Embedded in the sentiments we heard this quarter is the broader desire of people leaders to apply the lessons learned from the pandemic to lead their organizations through today’s uncertainty and become more resilient over time. And it is this spirit of adaptation that drives us here at SkyHive, as we co-create the next generation of skills technology with our enterprise clients and their ecosystem partners.
We want to hear from leaders like you – what are the front-of-mind issues for skills and talent in your organization at this moment? How can we help? Drop us a line at [email protected] to add your voice to future conversations.
Alison Lands is a Director of Strategy at SkyHive Technologies. Based in New York City, she leads strategic initiatives across the company to drive reskilling at scale in industry, government and education. With over 20 years in workforce and economic development, she has led high-profile skills initiatives through roles at Coursera, Deloitte, BCG, and the City of San Antonio, Texas. An economist by training, Alison also stays active in workforce policy and advocacy. In addition to her work as a practitioner, she writes and speaks regularly on issues around reskilling, digital literacy, and economic mobility.
SkyHive is on a mission to reskill the global workforce - by leveraging the power of big data to cognify the world’s skills base, we create products that allow workers to understand and showcase their skills and empower companies to truly harness the abilities of their workforce. In doing so, we aim to unleash human potential at scale and support equitable access to opportunity, thus contributing to a more sustainable future for us all.