I spoke this week at an event hosted by the Guardian newspaper’s commercial department for its recruitment advertising clients. The main purpose was to showcase the recent Demos report, part-sponsored by the Guardian, on the future of recruitment to 2020. My role was to offer a view of the overall context of the future working environment, and to chair a subsequent panel discussion.

Recruitment 2020 cover

The Demos report identifies five high level drivers of change in the recruitment market:

  • competitive business emvironment
  • regulation and legislation
  • changing composition of the workforce
  • changing social values, and
  • changing technology.

They’d also identified some scenarios – albeit produced in a fairly quick and dirty fashion, around the core uncertainties of “employer driven markets vs employee driven markers” and “large-scale technological change” vs “small scale technological change”.

The drivers, which came through in my presentation (and in their analysis) were the increasing importance of environmental issues in the working environment – and in employee choice. I also did a little ‘qualitative cross impact analysis’ to identify where the significant trends had the greatest impact, which created four stories:

  1. ‘wider nets’ – more potential employees, from more places, because of population growth in the global south and aging populations in the global north, which creates a ‘long tail’ of potential talent which needs better filters
  2. ‘open organisations’, both to improve innovation and responsiveness, but also because anything worth knowing will have been recorded somewhere (email lasts forever) and will reappear even as you try to suppress it
  3. ‘ethical organisations’, becausxe that’s what people want to work for, and also because the evidence suggests that they are better at creating shareholder and social value, so will also pay better and offer better conditions, and
  4. ‘work as transaction’, about negotiating the parts of the job which go beyond money. That might mean flexibility or development or sabbaticals. But it might mean reassurance that there will be real personal challenges in the work.

One of the most interesting questions in the panel discussion was the point at which the costs of the London property market will deter graduates and others from wanting to work in London. At the moment it’s something that people want to have on their CV. But if that’s still true in future and housing remains as expensive, it may be a temporary desire – you get it on your CV and move out, or move on. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter observed (in World Class), the limits to regional economic growth are usually found in the public and social infrastructure.

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