Here’s why talent champions are essential for building tomorrow’s workforce

Here’s why talent champions are essential for building tomorrow’s workforce
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Fifty years ago, no one could have predicted the skills needed to thrive in today’s economy. The familiarity with rapidly transforming technology and tools; the rise of hardcore quantitative skills in banking, advertising, and healthcare; the rapidly blurring lines between hard and soft skills. These developments were unpredictable.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, many of today’s skills will continue to be crucial; however, a next generation of job skills has the potential to be even more of a wildcard, and leaders of today’s top companies are taking notice and looking to better understand how to find, hire, and cultivate the right talent. The next generation needs talent champions, leaders who understand the looming skills crisis and are doing something about it.

The rise of the “Talent Champion”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution reduces the barriers between physical and digital systems, where everything from artificial intelligence, 5G, 3D printing, and the Internet of Things will play a role in transforming industries across the board. Workforces will go from managing specific verticals to working in an interlocking system driven by automation and algorithms. Undoubtedly, the transformative impacts will be profound. Whether we’re ready for this revolution is up for debate.

According to Deloitte’s “Success personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution” report, 55 percent of C-suite executives think there’s too great a mismatch between current skill sets and those necessary in the future. A further 46 percent of them think they lack the knowledge of what skills will be needed in the future. Much of that skill gap-related anxiety is focused on the role of emerging technologies in the coming years: 44 percent of executives surveyed said that employees’ lack of technological fluency is a challenge in preparing workforces for the short-term ways in which work is changing.

The obvious concern among industry leaders about the skills gap present in both the current and next generation is encouraging since it signals that executives understand the talent problem. But the skill gap is real and widening. More, many executives don’t believe the onus falls on business to help develop employees’ necessary skills. Instead, 80 percent of business leaders think it’s up to the government, the education system, and individuals to develop the skills workers will need to succeed in the future.

And then there are talent champions. This subgroup of executives take a more proactive route in preparing their workforces. According to the survey, talent champions feel more responsible for training their employees in emerging skill sets than their peers do (51 percent versus 41 percent).

These leaders exhibit some key attributes. For one, they’re highly tech savvy: Talent champions are more likely to invest in disruptive technology (42 percent versus 32 percent) and are committed to using those technologies in an ethical manner (44 percent versus 28 percent.) Crucially, they’re also more interested in how socially responsible approaches to business can drive revenues, with 64 percent of talent champions saying that they’ve been able to generate revenue through socially conscious initiatives compared to just 51 percent of all others surveyed. That blend of social awareness and business goals is key to retaining younger workers, a cohort that has made firms’ corporate social responsibility programs important parts of choosing and staying at an employer.

Building (and attracting) the worker of tomorrow

Building the best workforce of tomorrow means that business leaders will need to be more strategic when it comes to building a path towards the future of work. Make it a priority to ensure your workforce keeps up with emerging technologies and techniques, particularly those that will be deployed within your business or industry. Understand the priorities and expectations of this generation as well as the next one. Think about what skills your workforce will need to have not just tomorrow, but in the years and decades to come. It can mean the difference between a company that thrives in the workplace of the future, and one that sputters.

It is inevitable that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will transform how we think about talent. Identifying talent champions will be a vital ingredient for organizations that successfully and profitably navigate these changes. They’ll be the ones pushing the conversation around skills and talent, as well as creating a corporate culture that is nurturing and ambitious. We’ve changed the way we work significantly in the last 50 years. The changes we’ll see in the next 50 promise to be even more profound.

Punit Renjen is CEO of Deloitte Global.