The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented and unpredictable ramifications across the labour market. Quickly adapting to a digital life was necessary for individuals at work and at home. Is the workforce today prepared for the skills required tomorrow? How do changing demographics affect the labour market, and are business leaders doing enough to ensure inclusive workplaces? Rapid digitalisation has highlighted automation’s importance – but how will this affect future jobs?

These key challenges require a thoughtful response – FU.SE 2020 hopes to generate unique and direct solutions. This groundbreaking digital summit, moderated by Emma Nelson, features commentary by the following executives from around the world:

  • Alain Dehaze, CEO, The Adecco Group

  • Hans-Paul Bürkner, Chairman, BCG

  • Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations

  • Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, Deputy Secretary-General, the OECD

  • Alexandra Robinson, Global President, AIESEC

The New Normal

Opening the discussion, Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group, set the stage for the exciting events ahead. With an optimistic tone, even in these uncertain times, FU.SE Digital 2020 aspires to drive a positive workforce transformation. The adversity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined major considerations shaping the future of work.

Adjusting to a balance of remote and in-office work is the new standard moving forward. Because of this, traditional 9 to 5 contracts might be scrapped in favour of production-based agreements. As more workers stay at home, leaders must also develop new skills, especially related to Emotional Intelligence (EI) and empathy, to address isolation and worker’s mental health. The rapid digitalisation has forced many workers to re-skill, or even change jobs, in search of increasing their digital proficiencies.

A Bright Future In Uncertain Times

Despite the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, Hans-Paul Bürkner, Chairman of BCG, offers reassuring optimism for the workforce. Anxieties caused by the unpredictable and challenging current state of affairs need not detract from the progress being made. We are adapting in a positive way, and this time of struggle is just one step in an upward trend.

There is a huge opportunity to invest in vocational training in essential fields. On top of this, embracing life-long learning will be fundamental for sustainable future work. Employers must provide their employees the opportunity to build skills. And, as automation continues to change the labour market, employers should not use it as a replacement for human-work, but rather an integrated tool to enhance working conditions.

Up-Skill and Re-Skill

Before the pandemic, digitisation had already been continuously reshaping the world of work. Now, as Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Marketing, Sales and Operations at Microsoft suggests, the coronavirus crisis has quickly and fundamentally changed every industry. The response and acceptance of new technology across the labour market was swift and continuing to embrace digital learning and digital working will be vital for the future.

Challenges facing workers are changing, and quick adaptability is required to ensure a sustainable growth across every industry. Widespread e-learning initiatives and access to high quality training has never been easier to roll-out for government and private business. Reaching new populations, especially in the developing world, to connect with the resources to up-skill and re-skill is paramount for continual and sustainable growth in the labour market.

Unprecedented Adversity

The future, although bright, must be achieved by first overcoming the adversity we’re faced with today. For Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, the present is admittedly gloomy. Not since the end of the second World War has there been a negative economic growth rate. And with the pandemic not yet over, further economic hardship may still be on the horizon.

Government intervention to support the labour market has certainly helped. But, in order to ensure a sustainable future, we have to go from this immediate life support into something that holds more promise for long term viability. Protecting the worker, rather than the actual job, and a commitment to re-skilling are absolute necessities for certain sectors. If we adopt a life-long learning approach, workers will be prepared for changes in the labour market, helping to overcome this unprecedented adversity in which we are experiencing.

The Challenges For Today’s Youth

Alexandra Robinson, president of AIESEC, raised major concerns facing young workers today. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected today’s youth. In fact, 1 in 6 young people who were employed before the outbreak have stopped working all together. Not only are the current economic effects devastating, this young population will soon be tasked with re-entering a workforce that will be drastically different than before the pandemic.0

For a prosperous future, we cannot take today’s challenges lightly. Young people are agile, entrepreneurial, and digital natives – they are a key component in designing the future of work in which they’ll be apart. In order for a sustainable future of work, and a rise back to normalcy in the wake of the pandemic, today’s youth must be included as decision makers in shaping work’s future.

Final Thoughts

A digitising labour market, an unexpected and unprecedented pandemic, as well as a changing and diversifying workforce offers difficult and unique challenges.

FU.SE Digital 2020 brings together a community of business leaders, innovators, and decision makers. Together, through a unique collaborative 24-hour sprint, actionable solutions will be developed to directly address key challenges.

Rewatch the opening session here. Consider the ideas and takeaways from this important conference and think critically while developing actionable steps to ensure a sustainable future of work for all.