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Why Human Skills Matter For The Future Of Work

Stones stacked on a beach

A universal, global skills shortage has hit a 16-year high, and Skills Consulting Group are on a mission to help solve it.

On the 26th October 2022, business leaders came together for the Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN) breakfast briefing hosted by Skills Consulting Group (SCG). The topic centred on the newest post-pandemic challenge for a global industry – the talent gap.

According to UK publication Enterprise Times, more than half of businesses across Europe are experiencing post-pandemic skills shortages that pose a potential threat to growth. It isn’t just Europe suffering this skills gap either. Industries across North America, Asia, and Australia are also reporting a similar phenomenon. The Manpower group have said 78% of employers are having difficulty filling jobs due to a lack of skilled talent, and New Zealand is not immune.

Brain drain, amplified 

Brad Olsen, principal economist for Infometrics, launched the briefing by making clear the weight of the challenge. New Zealand is suffering from the effects of the long-documented brain-drain, without the boost in migration that usually soothes the sting.

“People are harder and more expensive to come by,” says Olsen, who notes that workers aged 20 – 29 with transferable skills are leaving New Zealand in droves – 22,000 people in the last 18 months alone and the employment rate is flat-lining with unemployment at an all-time low. 


“There’s intense pressure to find more people and there’s an intense pressure to keep them.” 


But keeping talent isn’t as hard as businesses might think, Olsen says.  


“People often ask me, as a young person, why I’m sticking around, given that I can earn more in Australia. But young people, especially those that I talk to, are thinking about employment in a very different way. Yes, the mighty dollar talks, but we also know increasingly that people are looking at culture and purpose for what they’re doing and looking at businesses that will buy into them. Trust is more important than ever before.” 

The right sort of skills

Recent research commissioned by Skills Consulting Group and undertaken by The Research Agency (TRA), clearly shows that the more supportive a company is of learning and development, the more satisfied and motivated an employee is, and also more likely to stay. In fact, 91% of those surveyed who said they were satisfied at work also said their employer significantly invested in training and development. Of those, 83% said they were likely to stay with their employer. This is the gift that comes from people feeling valued.

While there is a clear correlation between investing in learning and development and increasing productivity and staff retention, the type of L&D employees want is shifting.

We asked people what they wanted training on, and we looked at the gaps between what they want training on and what was being offered,” says Karin Glucina, managing partner at The Research Agency NZ (TRA). “What they want training on is not the hard skills; not technical skills. They want the skills they will need to be a smarter human – the soft skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, team leadership.”

TRA’s research showed that while 47% of workers wanted problem solving training, only 19% of employers offered it; and while 42% wanted training around critical thinking, only 14% of employers offered it. In fact the gap between what is desired, and what is offered, is large.

Understanding the future 

Anne Fulton, Founder and CEO of Fuel 50, says their own research backs this up. In addition, a lot of employees also know the world is changing and they want to be ready for it, but they don’t know what that means. 

“We know that we can turn around retention in organisations by delivering career development. It is one of the key levers that can be managed to drive not only retention, but also reskilling for the future,” says Fulton. “We hear a lot of appetite from employees around the world, around anxiety, around whether they’ve got the skills for the future. We know that there’s artificial intelligence coming, taking jobs, people are having to work differently, there are economic constraints. People are very concerned.”  

The TRA research also highlighted the gap between people knowing change is happening, but not knowing how that would impact them. For example, 56% of people know climate change will impact the workplace and 48% believe it will impact their jobs – but they’re not sure how to future proof for it. Part of an organisations role is to support their people to know which areas they need to reskill into, not just as an individual, but in the context of the changing economic climate.  

The message is clear. Invest in your people, and invest in the human skills that will equip them for the future to keep your business and NZ Inc as a whole running at its optimum.  

Want to know more about the Future of Work? Pre-order and download the Future of Work Index and sub-reports now.

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