You can’t transform the organization without also transforming the workforce. It may be time to rethink the people strategy.
Based on the data in this survey, it seems clear that Canadian organizations are in the midst of massive change. New technologies, new business models, new acquisitions and new markets will all have a significant impact on the organization and on employees. There may be profound uncertainty about the future, but one thing is for sure – the way people work will certainly change.
For one, the skills and capabilities required of employees will evolve as more and more routine and manual tasks are automated, enabling employees to focus on higher-value activities and decisions. Automation will certainly impact the nature of work – displacing 'tasks' and whole parts of jobs, making some obsolete, and introducing new roles and capabilities not previously imagined. Two-thirds of Canadian CEOs believe artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will actually create more jobs than it eliminates.
Certainly robots/robotics are and will continue to be ubiquitous in the workplace. And that means today's employees will need to get better at working with them. New skills, capabilities, mindsets and specialties will be required.
Already, Canadian CEOs are reporting gaps in some of the capabilities they expect to need most in the future. Just 36 percent of CEOs think their scenario and risk modeling specialists are highly effective; 30 percent rank their emerging markets experts as highly effective; and just 38 percent think their digital transformation managers and data scientists are operating at a high level of effectiveness.
While many Canadian CEOs clearly recognize their workforce will need to change, our data suggests they are taking a remarkably cautious approach to hiring new skills. Indeed, just 26 percent of Canadian CEOs said they plan to staff up ahead of demand; 74 percent said they are content to wait until they have achieved certain growth targets.
There are a number of problems with a wait-and-see approach to talent capability development. The first is one of supply and demand. We live in a global skills marketplace and foreign players are looking to attract new talent wherever they find it (48 percent of non-Canadian respondents said they would be hiring key skills ahead of growth).
The second problem with waiting is one of integration and adoption. Transforming the workforce isn't just about bringing in new people with new skills. It's also about adopting a mindset of transformation, innovation, resilience and being open to new ways of working, leading and growing. This workforce shift will depend on the introduction of new capabilities and perspectives alongside invaluable institutional knowledge. And we are not just talking about digital capabilities and skills. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need to succeed in the workforce. Why creativity? With the overwhelming amount of emerging technologies, ways of working, products, and services, the workforce of the future will need creativity and agility to harness the benefits of this change.
Another problem relates to the sustainability of our Canadian ecosystem. If we want our country to continue to be a great place for companies to grow, we need to encourage the development and training of key skills. And that means corporate Canada needs to continue hiring, training and developing the upcoming workforce (i.e. graduates and specialists that are being generated by our fantastic universities, colleges and schools across the country).
Philip Tetlock, a noted thought leader on forecasting, believes our ability to predict the future is now down to two years, the shortest time horizon in history. Therefore, organizations pursuing transformation programs will require an agile workforce shaping approach, a process that defines future organizational choices around the unique value proposition of their company.
Canadian CEOs and their leadership teams will face a lot of choices over the coming years. But, ultimately, it may be the ones they make about their workforce that have the greatest influence on the future. It's time to rethink the people strategy.
*All statistics result from the 2018 Canadian CEO Survey.