The shape of employability in 2021
2020 has been a challenging year. COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated unemployment and had a disproportionate effect on young people, with youth employment falling to its lowest rate since 2014. It has also stalled progress being made in closing the disability employment gap: disabled people are now two-and-a-half times more likely to be out of work than their non-disabled peers.
But while the pandemic has halted the growth of many industries, some sectors are actively growing. Job opportunities continue to be found in manufacturing, health and social work, retail trade, and scientific and technical fields. And when it comes to recruitment, two fifths of executives identified soft skills as essential. Creative thinking, communication, leadership and other similarly transferable skills will be key to employability in the year to come.
Aside from effects of the pandemic, digital transformation, wellbeing and a renewed focus on equality have also characterised the shifting employment landscape this year and will continue to do so in 2021.
Prioritising the human experience
Increasingly, mental health and wellbeing services are being integrated into products and experiences, including in employability. For example, Microsoft have announced they will be launching a virtual commute feature as part of their Teams product, allowing remote workers to mentally bookend their day. They are also partnering with Headspace to create an emotional check in feature.
According to the HR Trend Institute, Human Experience Management (HXM) is the approach set to shape human resources in 2021, prioritising the individual experience from recruitment through to employment. To find and retain the best talent, companies will need to provide a personalised experience where the individual feels supported, encouraged and valued.
Responding to the strain being placed on employees this year, companies of all shapes and sizes have ramped up their wellbeing services, offering everything from digital fitness memberships to extra days off in order to ensure the health and happiness of their staff. While this trend isn’t new, recruits now expect more from employers when it comes to wellbeing. And this trend won’t only impact employees. Being unemployed is notoriously stressful; taking care to boost the health and morale of jobseekers will become a reliable feature of employability services.
Hiring for skills not experience
Widespread industry disruption has meant large numbers of people losing their jobs. To enable them to transition to a new role or industry, and to fulfil the volume of vacancies appearing in resilient sectors, skills-based hiring is set to become the new norm.
Mapping adjacent skills is a helpful process both for jobseekers and HR teams. Jobseekers can map their skills and explore adjacent skills to understand the full scope of opportunities available to them. The same exercise can also support them to upskill intelligently by guiding their training efforts to areas that will be easier for them to improve and more relevant in their chosen field of work.
Similarly, recruiters will increasingly use this approach to explore skills and adjacent skills among candidates, rather than trying to match vacancies to candidates with predetermined experience. According to HR expert Laurie Ruettimann, this approach “allows you to identify candidates that the traditional application process would never find – someone who doesn’t have the job title, didn’t attend the right school, or lacks the typical background. That drastically expands the talent pool you can tap into.” It can also be used to recognise the breadth of in-house talent, re-deploy people to where they’re needed, and to upskill internal candidates for new or shifting roles.
Skills mapping and matching can be facilitated by intelligent technology. Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used to identify the traits and accomplishments of individuals and to match them to suitable roles. And some aggregated job search platforms work in a similar way, using machine learning to match candidate skills with vacancies. These technologies offer candidates a much wider array of opportunities than they would have found themselves, increasing the probability and speed of employment.
Increasing diversity and equality
COVID-19 saw diversity and inclusion job role postings fall by 60%. But in the months following the Black Lives Matter movement, they rebounded 55%.
Social justice is a key issue for both customers and employees, who want to know that companies they support or work for are taking this issue seriously. From understanding the needs of diverse employees to recruiting from diverse talent pools, there is a huge amount of work to be done to achieve equality in the workplace. Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify and cofounder of HR Open Source, acknowledges that a mindset shift needs to take place, and that empathy should be a key feature of leadership. “HR has been good at constructing the rules of employment but things are upside down now,” he explains. In 2021, HR practices must shift to support, rather than regulate, employees. Employers need to be flexible and accommodate diverse needs in order to enable and increase workplace diversity.
But if equality is to become a reality, initiatives need to start before recruitment; access to education and training needs to be equal. An innovative example can be found in South Africa where digital chatbot FoodaMate allows students to access course materials without a stable internet connection. The initiative was designed to address a material lack impacting equality of opportunity in SA. Moving forward, employability providers will be called upon to devise similarly creative methods to democratise access to services and level the playing field for jobseekers of all backgrounds and experiences.
The Internet of Behaviours
The Internet of Behaviours (IoB) is one of the top strategic technology trends for 2021. Data gathered from sources including commercial customer data, social media and even facial recognition, will increasingly be used to influence how people behave.
Behavioural psychology and nudging are not new in employability. But the IoB takes it one step further. It’s set to become an incredibly powerful sales and marketing tool, offering companies an in-depth understanding of their customer and the ability to “guestimate” future behaviour. Given the potential power of this technology there are ethical implications and those hoping to use it will need to be sensitive to its reception by society. However, the technology could be put to more positive use by employability coaches, who could gain a deeper understanding of how to motivate and support their clients to find, retain and progress in work.