This week’s Ask the Expert is answered by Kurt Ballard, VP of Global Strategic Initiatives for SumTotal Systems, a Skillsoft company. 

Ask The Expert: Why do businesses need a talent supply chain?

In recent years experts have debated the current skills gaps and the impact felt by organisations as they retool their business models to get closer and more aligned with their customers.  Such workforce innovations are leading to the disappearance and potential extinction of many current jobs, while new jobs are beginning to emerge.  A 2014 Oxford University study forecast that over the next 3-5 years 47% of current jobs would disappear. 

Today we are right in the eye of this workforce storm, and many of the predictions are becoming mainstream. Accountants, lawyers, doctors, long-haul truckers, cab drivers and even teachers should all brace for change.

Already technology, in the form of computers and bots, is analysing and comparing massive reams of data and making financial, medical, and process decisions more efficiently and accurately than humans.  This automation of decision making will impact salaries and careers. Income gaps will increase between those employed in highly specialised fields and the soon-to-be-displaced workers seeking new ways to earn a living. Like every other significant shift in society, there will be winners and losers as the nature of work pivots. Blacksmiths of the past and today’s computer programmers will share the common experience of the impact of societal shift and technological transformation.

Many of the new jobs emerging in this gig economy are likely to be in more specialised areas such as data science, mathematics, architecture and engineering. Knowledge, skills and abilities will be re-prioritised as competency models evolve to the tasks and activities of these new jobs. Already we are seeing a noticeable trend towards organisations implementing inventory management techniques to reduce costs and improve flexibility to have more time to focus on their customers. Yet, many of these same organisations lack a systematic approach to managing their skills inventory and talent supply chain.

What can organisations do to prepare?

The Senior VP of HR at footwear retailer DSW told me that he encourages his team to take stock of their competency inventory to reveal any gaps related to skills, experience or work styles that will impact their ability to fill roles in the next 12-24 months. Lincoln Financial Group, a Fortune 250 financial services company, conducted a job analysis study of a key business analyst position – not as the role is defined today, but as the job will be defined 3-5 years in the future. This study meant they could build a capability map detailing vital foundational skills and the use this information to populate internal career pathways. In other words, they looked at what they will need and then looked at what they must do to serve this need.  This forward-thinking will be a strategic advantage in the future.

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