This article was authored by Alain Dehaze, CEO of the Adecco Group.


The coronavirus pandemic is causing widespread economic disruption. According to the International Labour Organization, the world lost as many as 114 million jobs in 2020, and compared to 2019, global unemployment increased by 33 million people. But while COVID-19 has been devastating to many industries, it is not the only challenge we need to pay attention to. The ongoing and now accelerated automation and digitization across the globe means that more than 1 billion jobs will be transformed by technology in the next decade. More still, by 2022, 42% of the core skills required to perform existing jobs will change, according to the World Economic Forum.


The combination of the spreading pandemic and accelerated automation has put a lot of pressure on workers, businesses, and governments to mitigate the costs and turn these challenges into opportunities.


At the same time, the pandemic presents a pivotal shift in attitudes and expectations. It is an opportunity to hit the reset button and create new models that embrace reskilling and lifelong learning. And while it is true that by 2025 some 85 million jobs are estimated to be displaced by the technology, it is also predicted that 97 million new roles will emerge as a result.



Double the disruption, double the opportunities


Thus, although many jobs will have to go, many more will need to be filled. And they will need to be filled with employees who possess the right skills. According to WEF’s Future of Jobs report, about half of all employees will need reskilling in the next five years.


Simply put, we need a reskilling revolution. But to that end, we will need a tripartite approach where the public and private sectors, as well as employees, work together.


Governments will need to create incentives to encourage lifelong learning, provide more robust safety nets for displaced workers and tackle improvement in education and training systems. For instance, only 21% of businesses are currently able to use public funds to support reskilling and upskilling initiatives. Furthermore, they will need to ensure a fluid, friction-free labour market and allow for transitions between jobs and sectors.


But governments cannot build future frameworks alone. We will need employers to play their part too. Businesses, unlike in previous years, will need to shift from protecting jobs to investing in employability. This means, among other things, that instead of investing funds to constantly hire new staff to fill future roles, they should rather look for the talent among their existing workforce.


Providing the right skills for employees is not only socially responsible, it is also cheaper. Hiring a new person can be a lot more costly than training and reskilling an internal employee. In fact, according to a General Assembly commissioned study, re-skilling an existing employee can save as much as $116,000 over three years. Reskilling and upskilling is no longer a choice – it is a necessity. Every three years, each of us loses on average about 40% of our skills and to remain employable, we all should invest in our skills.



Being part of the solution: Employment bridges and Talent rivers


To restart the economy and prepare it for the new world of work will require that we all play our part. We at the Adecco Group have recently developed a new Future@Work strategy. Its purpose is for our three global business units – Adecco, Talent Solutions and Modis – to help customers address their talent needs more efficiently.


Among the more innovative solutions that we have recently pioneered is the idea of the so-called employment bridges. In simple terms, an employment bridge is a concept that facilitates the flow of workers from struggling sectors to those showing a rapid expansion. Companies under pressure to eliminate jobs ‘lend’ their surplus people to one of our GBUs such as Modis and suspend, rather than cancel their employment contracts for future return. Modis then contracts out these employees to companies looking to fill vacancies.


Furthermore, to respond to the fast-moving and dynamic times, and to better capture the way talent migrates from one employer to the other and from one job to the next, our brand Pontoon has developed a philosophy that we call talent rivers. Talent rivers, as opposed to static talent pools, are based on ‘lean’ principles to design a faster, more agile, and responsive hiring process. Candidates no longer sit in talent pools, hoping to be selected, but instead are constantly moving, and companies need to catch the right talent at the right time and place.


These are but two of the many innovative solutions that we have developed in response to the current and ongoing crises. And more to come.


As we continue to battle with COVID-19 and its impact on our economies and labour markets, we shouldn’t forget other pertinent challenges. As already mentioned, automation and digitization have always been on the horizon, but it wasn’t until recently that we’ve seen their significant acceleration. To bring solutions to both challenges, we need to be innovative and work together with governments, businesses, and individuals. Only together can we turn these challenges into opportunities.