“Nothing happens until something moves,” Albert Einstein once said. And that catalyst came this year in the form of Covid-19.

Jo Matkin, SIA global workforce solutions research director, delivered that message in her keynote address, “2020 — The Dawn of a New Era?” to open SIA’s CWS Summit North America. Held virtually for the first time this week, this year’s Summit is the largest in the event’s 16-year history with more than 850 attendees from 22 countries representing more than 450 companies.

Matkin addressed how the workforce solutions ecosystem, as an industry, has adapted to this year’s unprecedented changes as well as how the disruptions have specifically influenced workforce programs.

Trusting workers. Organizations have adapted to remote working. Matkin highlighted the issue of trust as workers prove they can be just as productive working remotely.

While the pandemic may be the catalyst for the remote work change, “it’s the trust that has been engendered that enables organizations to be confident about enabling this type of work for the more long-term — hopefully beyond the virus.”

Matkin noted the degree of attachment workers have to client organizations — ranging from traditional employment and internal temps/seasonal workers/volunteers on one end and human cloud and talent platforms on the other — is also something to watch as remote work increases.

“If we think about the trust the organizations now have with employees, It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that there will be an increased use of this type of worker as the trust grows that the work can be performed remotely as well as from a formal office location,” Matkin said.

Human cloud work is outpacing staffing in terms of growth, she said, and staffing firms themselves are making investments and acquisitions in the space, bolstering the outlook for remote work.

Skills and training. While the pandemic has had a devastating effect on employment worldwide and many workers are turning to contingent work out of necessity and not by choice, Matkin is encouraged by the amount of global organizations leveraging existing technology and collaborating with others to support workers impacted by the pandemic. This includes the use of AI to connect workers with jobs, even at other firms.

However, a more “systemic” issue at hand is the mismatch of skills with available jobs.

“The future of work is very much upon us now, and we also need to be thinking longer-term around the impact of automation and various other factors on the future of work and the types of roles we will have in the future,” Matkin said.

Almost 1 billion roles will require reskilling over the next five years, the International Labour Organization estimates. Rather than finding replacement jobs for laid-off workers, the answer is “closer to home,” according to Matkin, with organizations upskilling and better leveraging their existing talent.

In the spotlight. While the pandemic has altered the challenges facing CW managers, it has also brought attention to their programs.

“For better or worse, the C-suite is interested in your program today,” Matkin said. This includes number of workers, breadth of knowledge and plans going forward, and can be a “brilliant opportunity” to bring forth those things you want to launch to bolster your program.

Matkin’s keynote touched on other trends, including diversity and inclusion as well as total talent management. CWS 3.0 will cover her insights on those topics next week.

Today is the final day for SIA’s CWS Summit 2020 conference. Up next: Collaboration in the Gig Economy takes place on Thursday and Friday.

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