How procurement can help fill internal skills gaps

Future of work  •  30 June 2021

Fast changing business models are impacting the nature of work and it is widely accepted that the skills they need are also changing. At the same time, the pandemic has boosted churn within the labor force. Consequently, buying-in the skills needed becomes key to meeting this fast-paced change

Nearly two thirds of US-based employees say the pandemic has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life, with almost 50% saying that this includes reconsidering the type of work they do. To this point, our Annual Skills Survey reveals that 99% of Millennials and Gen Z professionals are willing to upskill, with 91% of baby boomers saying the same. It also shows 45% saying that the skills they needed to do their job changed during the pandemic. Millennials – already the largest cohort in the workforce - are three times more likely than other cohorts to point towards the coming change. By 2030, the leading edge of Millennials will be nearing 50, and they and Gen Z will make up the vast majority of the workforce and a rising proportion of management.  The consequence of all this is that the notion of churn will very likely outlive the pandemic and its immediate aftermath.

Create a procurement plan to acquire missing skills

Adopt future talent strategies to enable the organization to explore and create new markets and revenue streams, and in turn, help ‘...gain a distinct competitive advantage and improve resilience in a fast-changing world.’ It’s expected that by 2030 1.4 billion workers worldwide will not have the right skills for their jobs. The sheer pace of change demands a fresh – and somewhat alien - approach to talent. Potential mismatches between employee perceptions and employers' constantly evolving needs highlight the importance of building an aligned procurement plan to acquire missing skills.

There is some overlap between employee and employer expectations, but also major gaps. Our Annual Skills Survey shows professionals favoring digital skills (39%) over personal (32%) and interpersonal (21%) skillsets when developing future skillsets.  However, demand for social and emotional skills will rise notably in the emerging intelligent age - increasing 25% in the United States over the next decade. Others meanwhile suggests that ' 2025, analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility will be among the most sought-after skills.'

Decide what to keep and what to lose

Decide which skills will likely remain relevant to you and which new skills need to be acquired. Either way, disruption is inevitable, with the assumptions and organizations’ mental models in a state of flux. This is particularly so with the management, sourcing, and deployment of skills. In many cases, the skills used in the past will cease being even a partly helpful guide for the future. This will impact procurement, sourcing, onboarding, and other internal talent processes. Emerging from this, it is important to ask these three critical questions:

  • How do we recognise what is outdated?
  • How do we disrupt our outdated ways of doing things?
  • How do we challenge ourselves to deviate from conventional business practice?

Engage with agile supply platforms

You will need to create a structure that can respond quickly to the organization's requirements and ensure the operational fit of new hires. This is especially so given the shift from traditional business (and skills) 'supply chains' to more platformed based ways of doing business. Data analytics will be critical, with the need for internally connected systems and joined up thinking to predict future requirements. This will need to be cross-silo in nature, with increased cooperation extending to external partners.

Use technology to augmented skills procurement

Find a role for Artificial intelligence (AI), which will develop more cognitive capabilities within the next five years, to include analysis of both external and internal sources of data, and ensuring compliance, amongst a great many other capabilities. Consider how the mainstreaming of mixed reality apps could support the idea of ‘working from anywhere’ as a notion and '...usher in the death of the non-productive workspace.’ Decide how to create and sustain virtual cultures and use the widespread availability of 5G to create and engage with the deeper platformization of talent. With work shifting from 'place' to 'actions,' irrespective of post-pandemic remote work plans, roles are set to change further and emphasise essential human skills.

Look to global ecosystems of skills

Develop an ecosystem approach to help the organization treat the entire workforce as an asset instead of an expense which in turn can help deliver long-term value and at the same time enable procurement to save time and boost compliance. You could even procure skills from a wider range of geographies. Globally sourced, asynchronous teams are likely to form, although cultural and technological barriers are likely to remain issues. Even so, the next round of globalization could see skills, not solely low wages, deliver an advantage to certain areas and cities.

Seek out unusual sources of scarce skills

Develop an ecosystem mindset, drawing on both external and internal talent, to  broaden and deepen potential sources of skills. Using data to go beyond typical industry silos to search for talent will also likely benefit procurement. The pandemic helped demolish the notion that skills are unique to the industry in which they are found. Japanese electronics retailer Nojima hired around 600 workers, with around half coming from All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines and half from hotel operator Toyoko Inn. Skills redundant in one sector can fast be repurposed for use in another, and the transfer of such skills does not always meet preconceived expectations. When jobs are thought of in terms of skills, some surprising links can be made; for example, using AI, CareerBuilder figured out that veterinary technicians could make good prison guards.

Partner for success

Building the future organization has several threads. Only by mapping out where an organization wants to play, the evolving capacities needed to win there, and how these skillsets can be secured, arranged and deployed, can procurement wish to buy-right and support this goal. This means increasing collaboration internally with Talent Acquisition, HR, and the C-suite, and externally with partners able to provide the right hire at the right time for the right functional area. By also effectively using technology and data analytics, procurement will achieve their triple bottom line of talent access, compliance satisfaction, and cost savings.

Find out more about the readiness of professionals to reskill and futureproof their careers in our Skills Report.