A just transition in a rapidly changing world

By Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, CIPD 

Businesses everywhere are being buffeted by geopolitical change, economic headwinds, social change, sustainability challenges, and technological disruption. Surveys, such as that from the Conference Board and PwC’s 2023 CEO survey, show the top concerns remain the tough economic context and political uncertainty. But ability to transform and change, and the attraction and retention of skills needed are the primary internal organisational concerns.  

As many have described it, it’s a perfect storm. None of us can stand still and the need for us all to be adaptive, to innovate and learn, is critical. PwC’s survey highlighted that fully 40% of global CEOs think their organisations will no longer be economically viable in 10 years time. But economic viability as we are often being reminded depends not just on having the right products and services in the right markets, but also on brand and reputation, cultures, behaviours and capabilities. 

Many of the attributes of agility and adaptability are in the domain space of our profession. How to understand skills and capabilities and plan ahead, the jobs and roles we design, building inclusive cultures with a growth mindset aligned on shared values and beliefs. All supported by our operating models and policies, and the processes and capabilities that facilitate learning and development in rapid and responsive ways. This is the strategic value adding space that our profession can and needs to occupy. 

We also need this experience and insight on Boards, yet our recent report on the value of people expertise on corporate boards found that only 25% of FTSE 350 companies have executive or non-executive HR expertise at this level. This contributes to a ‘people insight’ deficit where the strategic people issues including understanding of corporate cultures and risks are not well enough discussed or understood. This gap will become more apparent as the demand grows from all stakeholders for greater transparency and reporting on workforce and organisational risks and value drivers, and evolving regulatory frameworks and standards. 

As work and jobs change at an increasing pace, careers are less linear, and new skills are needed, we must ensure we don’t leave parts of our workforces or communities behind – we need to ensure a ‘just transition’. Businesses need to be encouraged to invest more in skills development, and we need a vision and policies for skills and education that is supportive of all, adapting to technology and building the essential skills we need in every job as well as our daily lives. We need industrial strategy that considers all parts of our economies, and closer collaboration between business and government at all levels. The Lifelong Learning Entitlement that will take effect in the UK from 2025 is an example of a positive shift and will provide all new learners access to tuition fee loans to the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use up to the age of 60.

Lifelong learning will become a norm so we all have the chance to progress and succeed in the future. 

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