10 talent trendsAugust 04, 2014

Wonder which areas in talent management you need to pay attention to now? Which ones to invest in to have the greatest impact? Earlier this year I tried to answer these questions in my talent.trends report to help guide the talent management agenda. For talent.trends, I envisioned something fresh and truly data-driven. I analyzed over 700 sources (traditional analyst and consulting reports along with social listening, consumer and technology trends, macro-economic forecasts, and global policy developments). I crystallized the data into ten trends I feel will shape 2014 – some of which already started in 2013 or previous years but which will have new significance this year.

As we are entering the second half of 2014 I couldn’t help but wonder how these trends are evolving. Let’s take a look at trends 1-5:

Trend #1: A key imperative: Solving the skills mismatch riddle

Record unemployment numbers are, paradoxically, matched by many companies who cannot find the skills they need. This equates to a $150 billion loss to the global economy. The solutions are found at the intersection of education and immigration reforms, cross-sector partnerships, and companies’ investment in reskilling their workforces. In the first half of 2014 progress on U.S. immigration reform has been elusive due to congressional stalemate and Switzerland even increased restrictions on immigration. Some progress has been made in cross-country best practice sharing on initiatives like apprenticeship programs aimed at closing the skilled labor shortage. Companies have started to respond to the skills mismatch by reinvesting in their workforces and leveraging economical MOOCs and coding boot camps. Scalable solutions to address the global skills mismatch are emerging: LinkedIn’s Economic Graph vision, Google’s cross-sector Made with Code initiative aimed at getting more young women into coding, Harvey Mudd College’s accomplishment in high percentage of female engineering student and graduate rates, and the State of Michigan’s MAT2 apprenticeship model.

Trend #2: Progress at last? Women in top leadership roles

“Traits that were classified as “feminine” such as collaboration, cooperation, openness and even vulnerability, are coming to the fore and are no longer just nice-to-haves. Far from being soft skills, these competencies are achieving tangible business outcomes, including greater innovation and better retention.”[John Gerzema, author of “The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future”]

According to the World Economic Forum, fewer than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. In the world’s biggest economies, just over double that percentage hold boardroom positions. Harvard Business School research suggests that sustainable solutions to raising female participation in leadership are found by synergistic actions on country, organizational, and individual levels. Though quotas continue to be a controversial intervention to get to desired gender parity it can’t be overlooked that this is how the current benchmark, Norway where 40.9% of board seats are held by women, got there. India started imposing quotas in 2014 and increasing women in leadership roles is an integral part of Japan’s economic agenda. New studies continue to prove “the business case” for women in leadership supporting the notion that increasing female participation is not only the right thing to do but also good for business. Former investment banker Sallie Krawcheck took this thinking to its conclusion by launching an index fund rewarding companies who focus on diversity. Technology companies Google and LinkedIn published their (dire) leadership diversity numbers in an effort to create awareness around needed change for the industry. The elephant in the room remains: unconscious gender biases towards female leaders are alive and well – and much harder to address than implementing quotas and organizational diversity targets.

Trend #3: Employment Remix: Talent-as-a-Service

The recent recession and emergence of the sharing economy have permanently altered the way work gets done making Talent-as-a-Service a phenomenon that is likely to stay. Companies are increasingly hiring just-in-time workers, and talent is marketing their services to multiple employers at once. The emergence of this trend has brought to light the need for better definition, categorization, and counting of the self-employed workforce in order to determine its full impact and derive impactful policy and organizational changes. To Sara Horowitz, the founder and Executive Director of Freelancers Union, the sheer number of the Talent-as-a-Service workforce (by 2020, 40% of Americans are expected to work as freelancers, contractors, and temps) will impact the very way we work. The maturing of crowdsourcing platforms results in easy access to a broader talent pool increasing the need to comply with new regulations and to manage this expanded workforce more effectively.

Trend #4: talent.datafication and the rise of the underdog

talent.datafication is “the ability to quantify talent-driven organizational value creation and fundamentally change the way companies view talent and predict business outcomes.” Technology and “big data” analytics are enabling us to question the way we have selected, engaged, and measured talent in the past helping us to re-examine long-held beliefs and unconscious biases. Underdog talent pools we may not have considered before will be able to highlight their unique contributions. The most costly hiring miss in 2014 so far? The $19bn one that Facebook made by not hiring the two WhatsApp founders when they applied for jobs there a few years earlier. After having set the tone for the talent.datafication trend in 2013 Google continues to lead the way in challenging long-held assumptions about what makes a successful employee. The topic most debated in 2014 has been whether a college degree is really needed for some jobs and whether it matters what students majored in or where they graduated from college. Other surfacing underdog talent pools include the long-term unemployed and people with different abilities.

Trend #5: The growth market conundrum

We are the cusp of a fundamental shift of economic power from the developed world to emerging markets including new entrants such as S.E. Asia and Africa. Even though 2014 started out with political and economic instability and struggling BRICS, in a recent survey 53% of executives expect global conditions will improve over the next six months. China may overtake the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy earlier than expected, possibly as soon as this year. Its consumer and talent attitudes and behaviors have shifted as a reflection of this growth. Chinese companies are scaling at a rapid pace and expanding globally. In India, the election of its new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is setting the stage for economic reform and building on the competitiveness of one of the country’s most sought after export: IT talent. While the world is tilting at a rapid pace, companies are still playing catch up when it comes to developing global leadership skills: only 44% of companies recently surveyed include this in their leadership development.

Click here for trends 6-10.

What do you think? Which of these trends do you consider the most impactful and why? How are you tackling the trends inside your organization? Join the discussion in our LinkedIn talent trends group.


Nicole Dessain is the Founder of talent.imperative, a next generation talent management consultancy that supports our clients’ ability to execute their strategic plan through sustainable talent management by providing HR and operational leaders with actionable consulting, insightful research, and execution-oriented coaching around their most pressing talent challenges. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you unleash value through talent.

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