Status Quo a No-Go for the Future Workforce

Gaps in knowledge and declining job skills. Challenges hiring and keeping key talent. Older workers delaying retirement because of income insecurity. These are just a sampling of future workforce challenges, according to business and academic leaders who gathered for the International Foundation sponsored U.S. Employment Summit on the Wharton School campus at the University of Pennsylvania.

The event brought together thought leaders from the benefits world, business, government, media, unions and academia for a conversation on the future of the American workplace. The discussion was facilitated by Dr. Peter Cappelli, Wharton’s George W. Taylor Professor of Management, Director of the Wharton Center for Human Resources and the U.S. Academic Director for the International Foundation CEBS program.

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The day was spent discussing trends and their implications for the current and future workplace. Topics focused on what we’re all facing—the aging workforce, the challenging job climate for younger and “at-risk” workers, the rising contract or “gig” economy, different approaches for skills training, the relationship between business and government, and flexibility in employee benefits.

[Related: Recruiting Women Into the Trades | Benefit Bits Video]

The key takeaways:

  • There is a perceived gap in the knowledge and skills individuals acquire in school and what employers require on the job.
  • Employers are concerned about their ability to attract and retain skilled workers.
  • Employers are concerned about bridging the gaps between generations.
  • The so-called “gig” economy, where workers tend to hop from one job to another, is gaining share, but the marketplace has been slow to develop a new model of employment that addresses employee benefits and human capital issues associated with the “gig” economy.
  • There is need to develop responses to demographic changes, including the aging workforce, the tendency of older workers to delay retirement and the fact that many Americans have not adequately saved for their retirement.
  • Government regulations aimed at improving worker conditions put more pressure on employers. Similarly, multistate companies are often tripped up by a confusing patchwork of state and local laws and regulations. This regulatory complexity may contribute to the rise in outsourcing to companies familiar with compliance and other issues.

[Related: 36th Annual ISCEBS Employee Benefits Symposium, September 17-20, 2016, Denver, Colorado]

The one-day discussion was eyeopening for all, showing similarities and differences between the world of practice and the world of research. Perspectives and experiences aligned in some places and differed in others. It also highlighted areas for future discussion between practitioners and researchers, namely:

  • Reinforcing hard and soft skills in grades K-12 (e.g., reading, writing, math, character development, ethics, dependability)
  • Strengthening workforce development and training programs via employer involvement
  • Standardizing federal laws and regulations to diminish multistate compliance challenges
  • Creating new academic, political and business assumptions that reflect changing conditions
  • Rewarding companies that create well-paying jobs offering benefits.

To learn more, please check out our Summit report.

Julie Stich, CEBS
Julie Stich, CEBS
Associate Vice President, Content at the International Foundation

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