Insights and Challenges 2020 and Beyond

By Michael A Potter, Klaudia Darbinova, Manchester Research Group

June 2016, Over the past few decades the world of work has undergone huge changes, and with the year 2020 approaching rapidly, the future of work, in particular the way workforce is sourced, organised and managed, is promising to look even more different. The increasing attractiveness of the emerging markets with regards to business growth has already contributed to a significant increase in the need for companies to move people and source talent from around the world. Scientific and technological advances are continuing to impact most, if not all, workplaces, but there is still more change to come. Many of the ways of working that we have taken for granted over the past few decades are disappearing. Organisations are now operating in the new world of work where employees have more option than ever before about where, when and how they work. They are demanding a new value proposition that provides greater career support, combined with new flexibility in managing their work and building their skills. These changes require looking at talent attraction and development from a new angle, re-examining how we think about the nature of work, the concept of employment and what it takes to build a thriving workforce. The winners of 2020 and beyond will be those companies that adjust their strategies now.

Global Talent Scarcity

Success of any organisation depends on having the right people with the right mixture of skills, attitudes and experience. Yet skills shortage is becoming a crisis-level priority for many organisations in both mature and emerging markets.1 Globally, 38% of employers are struggling to find the right talent2, and 9 out of 10 global organisations anticipate that the competition for talent will increase in the forthcoming years3. One explanation could be that as the definition of work continues to evolve, the range of skills that employees need are not necessarily being provided by traditional educational systems. In the recent EIU/SHRM Foundation survey, executives reported that the current disconnect between the skills fostered by education and those they actually need will represent a very considerable obstacle in the coming years. Furthermore, in the absence of standardisation in education, especially in a global context, people managers are finding it increasingly difficult to assess applicants’ qualifications properly and recruit applicants with the right skills.

Collaborative Approach to Education

The first step in dealing with the global skills shortage is for organisations to take a more proactive role in securing the qualifications and skills they are looking for. This can be done by fostering a closer relationship and dialogue with educational institutions and governments in their own countries. Organisations need to partner with educational institution to change the way courses are being taught, in order to ensure that they address contemporary business issues and future business strategy. Universities must also align more closely with labour market needs to ensure graduates have the skills and knowledge demanded by employers. Graduates themselves need to become more adaptable to the volatile world of work. Universities must warn graduates that a degree does not guarantee employment and must prepare students for potential unemployment after graduation. Looking for a full-time job may not necessarily be the best strategy; instead, graduates should consider looking for two or even three part-time jobs, as well as contract and temporary work. Graduates should also be prepared to make personal investments into their career development during and after graduation. For example, European students can apply for the Erasmus Plus programme which is the European Commission’s Programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014-2020. The programme is a great opportunity for students to gain some practical work experience through volunteering, studying or working in a foreign country.


As companies look to hire more people, the global skills shortage shows no sign of easing – labour markets are still under strain in a world of continuous change. In order to address the nurturing of the global cabbage patch, a collaborative approach between governments, education providers, businesses and individuals is required.

Article written by Michael A Potter and Klaudia Darbinova

June 2016
Revised November 2016
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