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Ep 590: The Road To 2030

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The last few years have taught us that no one can predict the future. However, you can develop the insight necessary to make accurate forecasts with the right combination of trend analysis and strategic thinking.

We are currently in a period of accelerated change in talent acquisition, and it is essential to understand the direction of travel even if we can’t predict the final destination. We must anticipate the skills that will be required in the future, how we can recruit them, and how talent acquisition must change to be fit for this new purpose.

My guest this week is Russell Beck, Director of Inspiration at ImagineThinkDo and author of a new book called “The World Of Work to 2030”. The book looks at the megatrends shaping the future, and Russell’s background and experience in RPO means he can provide some relatable insights into the likely future of talent acquisition

In the interview, we discuss:

• Six megatrends shaping the future

• Future skills and how we hire them

• AI is removing your uniqueness.

• From STEM to STEAM

• Artistic engineers

• The cost of bad hiring

• How does TA need to change

• How can we future-proof our careers?

Follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Transcript:

Matt: Support for this podcast comes from Transform. Recruiting Future is excited to announce a partnership with Transform. Transform brings together people-driven leaders, investors, and innovators across industries and backgrounds with a shared passion for people innovation and transforming the world of work. Transform 2024 promises to be the best yet. You can expect three days of powerful content, innovation showcases probing conversations, hands on learning experiences, over 300 speakers, and energizing after hours networking Las Vegas style. So, come and meet me in Vegas on March 11 through the 13th. Register now and save $200 by going to mattalder.me/transform. That’s mattalder.me/transform.

[Recruiting Future Theme]

Matt: Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 590 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. The last few years have taught us that no one can predict the future. However, you can develop the insight necessary to make accurate forecasts with the right combination of trend analysis and strategic thinking. We are currently in a period of accelerated change in talent acquisition, and it’s essential to understand the direction of travel even if we can’t predict the final destination. We must anticipate the skills that will be required in the future, how we can recruit them, and how talent acquisition must change to be fit for this new purpose. My guest this week is Russell Beck, director of inspiration at ImagineThinkDo and author of a new book called, The World of Work to 2030. The book looks at the megatrends shaping the future and Russell’s background and experience in RPO means he can provide some relatable insights into the likely future of talent acquisition. Hi Russell, and welcome to the podcast.

Russell: Thanks Matt, pleased to be here. Thanks for inviting me.

Matt: An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please could you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?

Russell: So, my name is Russell Beck. I am the director of inspiration and co-owner of the company ImagineThinkDo, and we work with leaders to help them be the best they can and support their people so that they can be the best that they can.

Matt: Fantastic stuff. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to do what you do now.

Russell: So, by training, by qualification, I’m an engineer. So, I spent the first decade of my career designing or leading large scale project management teams, rolling out mobile networks across the world. I’ve worked in 25 plus countries and I then moved more into the people side of things. I was European head of talent at Yahoo in the mid-90s. I was managing director of a 120-million-pound turnover MSP business, Carlisle Managed Solutions and I then became head of consulting for Impellam Group, the largest recruiter in the UK, turning over something like 2 billion pounds annually. I left them in February 2020. What could possibly go wrong at that time?-

[laughter]

Russell: -to leave the corporate world and set up the consulting or to join the consulting company where I now am. So the rest, as they say, is history.

Matt: Absolutely. And so, you’ve just written a really interesting book. Tell us about the book and why you wrote it.

Russell: So, yeah. The book, The World of Work to 2030: A practical guide to future-proofing your business and your career. I never really set out to write a book. That wasn’t the destination I had in mind back in the day. As an engineer, I’ve always looked at things and tried to see why things are happening and seek out the cause and what’s happening, and therefore answer the really important question. So what? What does that mean? How can you apply that hence practical in the book title? And it was inspired by a number of things. My daughter, who’s now 13, asking me questions that I couldn’t always answer. Business leaders, who I’ve been speaking to and who we work with, who were seeing just the environment change, the impact of COVID on work, work contract, what that means, and just the general two big headlines in the world that have been going on for 5 to 10 years of we’re all living longer and we can’t afford to retire, so we need to have a job and a career that’s going to last till our 70s or maybe our 80s. And at the same time, technology, AI, automation is going to destroy jobs, 47% of jobs at risk of automation and so forth. How are those two realities compatible? And that’s what really drove and underpinned the catalyst, if you like, for considering writing the book.

Matt: You start the book with a lot of data to kind of back up what’s going on and what might happen. Was there anything particularly surprising in the data that kind of shocked you or you weren’t expecting to find?

Russell: I always remember back in, I don’t know, the 2005 or something like that, there was a YouTube video that had lots of just stats. If there was 100 people in the world, then this is China and America and India and Greece and all of this. And we all know that the world’s changing. We fail to realize quite how fast it’s changing and how quickly in places that are a long way away from us. And so, I wanted to have an immersive section just to really get people to kind of open their eyes. And I think there’s no one stat that surprised me other than just all of them together. So every year since 1955, something like that, life expectancy on the planet has increased by five months. I mean, that is a phenomenal stat when you consider it. And at the same time as living longer, our quality of lives are arguably far, far better. You’ve got the stats on the average sub-Saharan African uses less electricity per year than my fridge, which is astounding. We’re having less children. Technology is everywhere and all-consuming and what it does and globalization means we’re connected and interconnected like never before. You just look at Silicon Valley Bank last year. So it wasn’t so much a single stat that stood out for me. It was just all of them.

Matt: Yeah. No, it does. I mean, the data makes for a really kind of interesting picture of where we’re heading and some of those small things, like everyone living five months longer, you compound that by all the people in the world and it has some interesting consequences definitely. You talk in the book a lot about megatrends. What are the megatrends that we need to be aware of?

Russell: So in the megatrends, I wanted to have a structure to what is really going on in the world. So I pulled together six megatrends. And this is based in research, it’s not mine, that there are these six megatrends. McKinsey have written books on this and so on and so forth. So you’ve got urbanization and the rise of emerging economies and quite how fast they’re growing and how quickly they’re dominating economically. You have technology and obviously the rampant impact of Moore’s law and how that’s impacting computer chips. But also, increasing the AI, you have demography, how we’re living far longer and having actually far less children, and that’s dropping a lot quicker than people realize. We have globalization, and by that I really mean interconnectedness. Are we more interconnected in ways that we don’t even realize.

So therefore, events from halfway around the world impact us without us even kind of realizing it. And you then have climate and the impact of the environment and how that will become one of the most defining aspects of life going forward. And the 6th one is politics, because I think you’re seeing a change in politics and the increasing impact that politics has on the world. So those were the six headings. And I use those just to put things in context and to immerse people in what’s happening and what’s taking place.

Matt: So what does this all mean for the workforce, for work, for skills. What’s the impact on people and talent?

Russell: Sorry, Matt, that’s a great question and I’ve written 70,000 words on it. [laughs] So the importance of the megatrends was to show what’s going on, because they are defining what’s happening. But what I wanted the book to do was answer the question, “So what? What does that mean? How can I practically prepare for what is happening? And so, I then focused or I used five different lenses to look through in order to consider exactly that. And the lens, what does that mean for your business? What does all this mean for your business? Your business strategy, how you do things, where you do things, the ying of flexibility with the yang of what the actual office is all about. Second lens was, what does this mean for our people and our talent in terms of the work contract has been dramatically altered by COVID. It amplified, it fanned the flames that were already there. And what people want from work has changed so whole, looking at that aspect of people and talent.

The third lens was looking at the future skills. So what skills do we need in the future? And the very interesting follow-up question is, how are you going to hire them? The fourth lens was looking at sustainability, and looking at sustainability through two approaches, the internal approach of diversity and looking at that, because that drives innovation and the external lens of the environment and climate. And the final was the far more personal one? The previous four are all about business and people and strategy and so forth. The final, the fifth one was, what does all that mean to future proofing your career? What can you do in order to ensure that you have a career that provides fulfilling work, which gives you monetary reward? Because we’ve all become very accepting of our quality of life for the next two, three, four decades.

Matt: Let’s dive into a couple of those. So, I think the first one, it would be interesting to talk about is future skills, what’s needed and how do we get them? How do you see things evolving? What do people who are in talent acquisition need to be thinking about now in terms of what the future of skills is going to look like?

Russell: Well, I think The World Economic Forum has done a lot of research on future skills, the skills businesses we will need by 2025 and so on. And really broadly and simplistically for time, the skills of the future, the skills businesses will really need in the future fall generically into two buckets. On the one hand, you’ve got innovation, creativity, storytelling and so on. And on the other side, you’ve got people skills, people managing, leading, motivating, inspiring, engaging, etc. And it’s reasonably obvious why those are the buckets, because technology, AI is and will, at an ever-increasing pace, remove the utility from work. So jobs or functions or processes that are definable, that are linear, that follow an ordered, structured process, that are repeatable, A, B, C, D, E, repeat, repeat, repeat. Technology will do those. Those jobs will just go. All those elements of jobs will go.

So what businesses will need are the skills that technology can’t do. And those fall into those two buckets. The innovation, storytelling, what’s the hidden meaning? We’re going to be swamped by data. What does this actually really mean? How can we interpret that? And how can we communicate that to other people to make sense of it? You’re seeing a change and a shift in STEM to STEAM. So what we were seeing five, eight years ago, so we’re assuming it as STEM, STEM, STEM and now you’re seeing STEAM, the addition of the letter A and A standing for art, because it’s the innovation, the creativity we need. AI has almost made coding a drag and drop function now. AI is almost writing its own code in a greater or lesser extent already.

So it’s the artist engineers that we’re seeing, ironically, going back to the original artist engineer, Leonardo da Vinci. So that’s one big bucket. The innovation, the crucible for new ideas and creativity and storytelling. And the other side is people skills, because people are probably the single biggest line item on a company’s P&L. So if I could increase their productivity by just 1%, I would probably have a significant impact on the bottom line and the people skills, how do I regulate my emotions? How do I lead others? How do I motivate them? How do I engage them? How do I make the most of the skills? How do I get a team to storm, form, norm and be productive as quickly as possible? Because that will drive productivity and therefore profitability. And increasingly, we’re seeing that one size fits one. One size does not fit all in terms of people in leadership. And by 2030, certainly this is a UK data, and it applies to a greater or lesser extent globally, by 2030, the biggest skill gap between business demand supply would be in digital skills and the second one, very close behind would be people management, people leadership. It’s the people that make the difference.

Matt: I think it’s really interesting and I think the interesting thing is, when we talk about 2030, it’s really not that far ahead, is it? It’s not that far in the future. There’s obviously a big discussion within talent acquisition at the moment about things like skills-based hiring, about changing the recruitment process, so you can kind of see the process beginning to start to sort of get to where it needs to by 2030. How do you think that hiring and recruiting sort of need to change in the next few years to be able to give businesses the talent and skills they need?

Russell: That’s a really good question. And I think if you notice the skills that I’ve just articulated, the skills of the future, the skills that businesses will need, are quite ephemeral to a greater or lesser extent, they’re slightly more intangible. And to a greater or lesser extent, businesses could struggle hiring the skills of today, which are a bit more technical, a bit more you’ve got, the more you have, and a bit more binary kind of thing. So actually, the problem is going to become exacerbated and exacerbated really quite quickly. So I think there’re different ways, and each business will be treading this path to get there. I think there’s an approach of actually, do you honestly know what you want? Do you honestly know what you need for the jobs you’re looking to hire, do you know? and I’ve said, I’m an engineer, I have a master’s gained through research. So when I say no, do you have empirical evidence that the presence or the absence of a trait, a skill, a competency, whatever label you wish to use to select or identify people, do you know that the presence or absence of that predicts success or failure in your people?

And I think the normal answer to that question is, “Not really.” So I think actually observe your good people. Observe your good people and observe your less good people. And you won’t crack this in a day, maybe not even a week or a month, maybe, but just observe what your good people do and what your less good people do and try and spot the difference and try and spot what they do and how they do it. Observe and then ask them questions, whatever’s relevant, pertinent to the situation. I notice you always have time for people. I notice you’re always sharing. I notice you always are greeting people, whatever it is, and actually try and get into what is it that makes them good or less good. Because the research shows that in one report, I think from memory it was leadership IQ only 19% of hires are an unequivocal success. 46% of hires fail in the first 18 months. And if you put the numbers on that and I think I do in the book, if you put the numbers on that, the cost associated with poor hiring decisions is astronomical.

It’s astronomical, and it’s often hidden because it’s intangible in that a bad hire causes resentment in colleagues. You lost a sale. The bad hire we call people, some people cultural terrorists, if you just want to use that term just to label it for brevity and simplicity, and they poison other people. The bad hire goes home early so everyone else thinks, “Why do I bother etc., etc., etc.?” That’s the cost of bad hiring. It’s invisible, but it’s massive.

Matt: To focus in a bit more on the AI part of this. So is obviously much speculation and forecasting about AI taking jobs away or taking parts of people’s jobs away. And then we seem to kind of default to this optimistic vision that it’s okay, anytime there’s been any kind of technical revolution, it’s created more jobs than it’s kind of lost. What are your kind of findings on that? What’s your view on AI creating jobs, losing jobs? What’s going to happen?

Russell: Interestingly, one of the biggest challenges in writing this book I started writing just over a year ago. So what December 2022, ChatGPT had been launched the month before, [laughs] and ChatGPT 4 was launched, what in middle of last year? And trying to assimilate and make sense of all the stories that were coming out then. I mean, if you cast your mind back a year, six months, it was from one end of the scale, terminated doom and gloom.

Matt: We were all supposed to be out of a job by June. So [chuckles] that was the most hardcore prediction.

Russell: Yeah, it was doom and gloom. It was one end of the scale, it was terminator, the end of civilization as we know it. And at the other end of the scale, it was, we’re all here, we’re human, etc. And the obvious answer is there’s going to be something in between. I think an interesting point that one of the best quotes I think is, “I don’t think you’ll lose your job to AI. You will lose your job to someone who knows how to use AI.” Because actually, if you cut back from the noise and I do this in the book, cut back from the noise and actually what is it doing? What is the technology, whether it’s AI, whether it’s automation, whether it’s exoskeletons in manufacturing, what is that technology doing?

And if you take a step back, what it’s doing is removing your uniqueness. It is dumbing the job down. It is meaning that anyone could do the job. And you could say, as you’ve already hinted, Matt, was it ever thus Excel dumbed down doing a spreadsheet, PowerPoint dumbed down doing a presentation. It’s just AI is going to turbocharge that and make it faster, quicker, and focus potentially more on what has been white collar jobs rather than manufacturing jobs. But what the technology does, if you take the step back, is it removes your uniqueness. Why I hired you, Matt, for this job, because you have the skill to do it. The business corollary, of course, is AI opens up talent pools that you’ve never considered before. I don’t need someone who’s, take the manufacturing example. If I don’t need someone who has to carry around heavy tools all day every day, I don’t need someone who’s more of a gym fit, really fit and butch and works out, anyone can do the job now.

So actually, going back to the earlier answer, what characteristics do I need in my people? What attributes do predict success? It completely changes it. And I think that’s the important point we all miss, of all the noise we missed that. Tech will destroy jobs. Was it ever thus? Nominally, historically, more jobs have been created through the technological revolutions than have been lost. So in the example in the book, I’ve got a manufacturing example, two people wearing exoskeletons are more productive than three without, which is great, but you’ve lost, nominally, a third of the headcount, but you’ve created the jobs in the creation of the exoskeleton, the design of the exoskeleton, the servicing of it, the associated industries, the permissions and so on and so forth. More people were hired by banks after the introduction of ATMs than before the introduction of ATMs. So will that replicate going forward, potentially.

Matt: Potentially, but the skills are obviously very different. So I suppose that leads nicely onto my final question. What can people do to future proof their careers? And I suppose with particular relevance to the audience who are listening, what can we be doing right now to make sure that we have that sense of uniqueness in this sort of very AI-driven world?

Russell: Yeah. I think a couple of things immediately spring to mind in terms of lifelong learning. I think the quote is truism so bad that it makes your [00:25:03 [unintelligible]. But actually, yeah, you got to keep learning. It’s amazing if you actually think about your learning and the time you spend studying or educating, etc. A question for everyone to consider and take away. What percentage of your lifelong learning budget was spent by the time you left university, if that was your highest educational qualification, and how much was spent after you joined the workforce? For a lot of people, the answer to that question is probably, I don’t know, 90%, 85%, 80% of my entire lifelong learning educational budget was spent by the age of 21. And we’re still working 40 years later, so there’s an observation. So, lifelong learning definitely.

I think, know what you are. So, Lynda Gratton called it the T-shaped career. It’s been called the V-shaped career, but actually know what you are and what your value is. What are you the expert in? And be the best. So have an appreciation of where you fit into work, business, what’s going on? That horizontal bar of the T if you like, but the vertical is know your expertise and be the best at it. Average is no longer enough.

Matt: And I suppose also it’s detaching the identity from your job title. So, you’re not a recruiter anymore, you are whatever this looks like.

Russell: Yeah, absolutely. In that one sentence is a whole host of things, I think just spring to mind. I’m not always 100% sure if and you might completely disagree, I’m not always 100% sure if CEOs care too much about cost of hire or time to hire. If you think really what time to hire is, it’s almost to an extent a boast about how quickly you spend your money, and you’d never do it that way in your personal life. But actually, quality of hire, impact of hire, the ability to get talent that takes your business on. I said earlier about 19% of hires are an unequivocal success. Some of the research by McKinsey shows that a good hire, someone who knocks it out the park, is up to eight times more productive than an average hire. And as the complexity of a job increases, so that multiple goes up. If you just think what that means for a moment, someone who is a good hire, the great hire, the fit, skill, culture, however you’re defining fit or whatever, someone who really is spot on, could be eight times more productive. Imagine what that does to your business.

Matt: Absolutely. So finally, just tell us the title of the book again and where people can find it.

Russell: So it’s called, The World of Work to 2030: A practical guide to future-proofing your business and your career. It’s available on Amazon. It’s launched on the 1st of February 2024 in the UK, and the 1st of April from memory[?] in the US. It’s available from Bloomsbury and all local bookstores.

Matt: Russell, thank you very much for talking to me.

Russell: Absolute pleasure, Matt. Have a great day.

Matt: My thanks to Russell. You can follow this podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for recruiting future. You can search all the past episodes @recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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