The State of Talent 2015

talentSeptember 30, 2015 I was recently interviewed by the Chicago Tribune as part of their special on talent and culture. [You can read the complete interview here.]

Much of the conversation circled around my talent.trends report and the subsequent writing I had done earlier this year on 5 trends that we would see play out in 2015. One of the questions I was asked was what progress I have seen so far around these trends.
Here are my thoughts on the state of talent in 2015:

Trend #1: Discussions around how to integrate robotics and artificial intelligence in the workplace will become more frequent.

The debate about the next wave of robotics and AI and its impact on the workplace has definitely heated up this year. The pessimists argue that soon all our jobs will be taken over by robots. In the other camp, pundits stipulate that that actually is a good thing because it allows us humans to finally enjoy greater work life balance.
I tend to agree with Geoff Colvin, author of the recent book “Humans Are Underrated”, that instead of fighting an intellectual battle of doomsday vs. utopia, let’s try to understand better what unique VALUE humans will continue to bring to the workplace. Colvin makes some excellent points around this in a Fortune magazine summary of his book. Let’s imagine what future jobs we may create that leverage uniquely human skills. What could effective AI/human collaboration look like?

Trend #2: Apprenticeship programs will slowly start to become accepted alternatives to college education in the US.

Apprenticeship programs have garnered new support in the US – on the one hand due to strong sponsorship from the government as a way to tackle youth unemployment. On the other hand, it has emerged as a welcome alternative for parents and students who are tired of accumulating crushing student debt. And for employers it’s a way to address the skilled labor talent shortage. Seems like a win-win-win. Earlier this year, I featured three Illinois-based tech apprenticeship programs that successfully kicked off this year.

Trend #3: Comprehensive immigration reform in the US will be passed impacting global talent mobility.

Clearly I was wrong that this will happen in 2015! Due to election campaign distractions and change in congressional leadership no progress is likely until after the 2016 presidential election. Yet, I believe this reform is imminent – not least due to economic factors and increased pressure from tech companies that can’t find highly skilled talent to fill critical roles. In 2015, a record 233,000 applications for H-1B visas were filed competing for the 65,000 available annual slots.
But the US is not alone in its outdated immigration system – many countries have not kept pace in creating policies that meet the demands of organizations’ increased international talent mobility needs.

Trend #4: More companies will set voluntary targets to increase parity of women in top leadership roles.

We are still not there. A recent study by McKinsey in collaboration with Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org found that corporate diversity initiatives aren’t doing much to change the ratio. According to the report, women are still less likely to advance, with the greatest disparity occurring from manager to director. Women are only 79% as likely to reach that level, compared to 100% of men. One reason is that there seems to be a disconnect between organizations asserting diversity as a top CEO priority and staff not seeing this support trickle into the organization.
The report concludes with a list of recommendations including to set diversity targets in order to keep the organization focused. Another opportunity that I see: increasingly corporate board seats are being vacated by retiring baby boomers – a great opportunity to replace these seats with diverse talent!

Trend #5: China and India will become major players in the “talent games”.

This year saw a setback to the Chinese economy causing many companies to question their involvement in the region. I tend to agree with The Economist’s Chief Economist Simon Baptist when he stipulates that this is a temporary setback of a country on the cusp of tremendous transformation and opportunity. Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a mission to expand India as a global provider of talent. During his recent visit to Silicon Valley Modi started to lay the groundwork for closer collaboration with American technology companies.

Interested in learning more about what’s next in talent? Join our LinkedIn discussion group and stay on top of the trends.

Nicole Dessain is the founder of talent.imperative, a next generation talent management consultancy. We guide our clients in surfacing their most pressing talent questions, crunch data to answer them, and customize solutions to realize value through talent. Contact us to discuss how we can help you.

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