Your workforce is more adaptable than you think

by Tunde Awe

In this edition, beyond the immediate implications of Brexit, I want to look at how employers and employees in our region can adapt to meet the emerging challenges of disruption and change in the workplace into the foreseeable future. To do this, I will integrate insights from a recent Harvard Business Review article with a recent development at our Institute.  In a collaboration between academics and practitioners to understand the forces shaping the future of work, the authors surveyed 1,000 employees each in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States with a focus on employees most vulnerable to changing dynamics: lower income and middle skill workers.  The employees’ perspective was complemented by surveying more than 800 business leaders each in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States making sure the business leaders and employees surveyed were not from the same organisation.     

Interestingly, employees and employers perceived the future in markedly different ways.  Employers are worried about finding/hiring employees with relevant skills and what to do with employees whose skills are becoming obsolete. On the other hand, employees were focused on emerging opportunities, willing to embrace change and learn new skills in more measure than employers reasoned.  See the article reference below for a full list of the 17 disruption forces the authors found to be shaping the future of work.  More importantly, the divergence in perspective between the two groups about the future of work showed that:      

  • ‘Workers seem to recognize more clearly than leaders do that their organizations are contending with multiple forces of disruption, each of which will affect how companies work differently’
  • ‘Workers seem to be more adaptive and optimistic about the future than their leaders recognize’
  • ‘Workers are seeking more support and guidance to prepare themselves for future employment than management is providing’

With gaps like these, employers are missing out on optimum output of their workforce while employees are frustrated by underinvestment in training and lack of trust in their ability to tackle challenges arising in the workplace.  The authors suggested what employers can do to bridge this unhealthy gap in perspectives:

  • ‘Don’t just set up training programs—create a learning culture’.  Employee development is a journey, not a destination.
  • ‘Engage employees in the transition instead of herding them through it’.  Employee buy-in lowers inertia.
  • ‘Look beyond the “spot market” for talent’ … there’s more talent available internally than is obvious.
  • ‘Collaborate to deepen the talent pool’.  Working with peer businesses and partners like CIM helps.
  • ‘Find ways to manage chronic uncertainty’. Track future trends, experiment and learn how best to navigate imminent change.

Bringing these insights closer to our noble profession, in an effort to further create marketing advantage for employers and employees, the Chartered Institute of Marketing recently launched its Marketing Analysis Portal (MAP), which identifies marketing capabilities within the organisation.  Along the lines suggested by the collaboration cited above, MAP allows employers to directly identify individuals’ and teams’ current capability, needs and show trends across the organisation. This will enable employers to be more targeted in their capability development efforts and so maximise employee productivity and marketing ROI.  The beauty of MAP is that it is based on CIM’s Professional Marketing Competencies, a framework of marketing capabilities and a guide to skills expected of competent marketing professionals.   

Finally, employers in the South West are encouraged to empower their employees for success by taking advantage of diagnostic tools like MAP as we collectively seek the prosperity of our region.  Proactively, employees also can bring tools like MAP to the attention of employers.  For help with relevant marketing skills and networking opportunities in the South West, you are invited to our events listed here or for broader menu of CIM training possibilities, see our training website.  We look forward to hearing about how South West employees and employers are preparing for the future of marketing work via CIM Community South West LinkedIn Group.

Article reference: ‘Your Workforce is More Adaptable than You Think’ by Joseph B. Fuller, Judith K. Wallenstein, Manjari Raman and Alice de Chalendar.  Harvard Business Review, May-June 2019