In a tight labor market, how can you ensure you're filling much-needed roles with the right people? And once they're hired, how can you ensure those new staffers stay for the long haul? Valerie Beaulieu, Adecco Group's Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, shares why labor scarcity is here to stay, how companies can navigate hiring, and how workers can make the most of this moment. She also shares a skill she honed in an early career as a journalist and how it can help any leader spot new talent trends as they emerge.
This transcript, generated from speech recognition technology, has been edited for web readers, condensed for clarity, and may differ slightly from the audio.
Linda Lacina: Welcome to Meet the Leader, a podcast where top leaders share how they are tackling the world's toughest challenges. Today's leader, Valerie Beaulieu. She's the Chief Marketing Officer to staffing giant Adecco Group. She'll talk about talent scarcity and what leaders and jobseekers need to keep in mind this year.
Subscribe to Meet the Leader on Apple, Spotify and wherever you get your favourite podcasts. And please take a moment to rate and review us. I'm Linda Lacina from the World Economic Forum and this is Meet the Leader.
Valerie Beaulieu: When you have to cope with a world that is in constant transformation, you need to adjust your organization all the time. you have to make sure that your people have the skills, and that, in turn, the organization will be successful to deliver on their outcome.
Linda Lacina: There's likely been no shortage of high profile layoffs in your news feed, but don't let that distract you from what is, in many sectors, still a very tight labour market. The ability to get the right talent in the right places will continue to be a challenge, especially given the range of disruptions likely ahead, including a potential global economic downturn.
At the 2023 Annual Meeting in Davos, I talked to Valerie Beaulieu of Adecco Group, one of the world's largest providers of staffing and talent solutions. She broke down for me why this scarcity is here to stay and how leaders and teams will need to be nimble as they upskill existing staff to match shifting needs.
She also talked about the opportunity that is available for workers who can match their talents to a changing market. She'll talk about all of this -- including how an early career foray into journalism -- helps her ask big questions, dig into data and get a head start into teasing out labour trends.
But first, I’ll let her get us started with a definition of talent scarcity.
Valeria Beaulieu: I think it's the simplest definition you might think about. Talent scarcity is the fact that you have more work and more jobs to offer than you can find people to take these jobs. So, let's start with a very, very simple definition here.
Linda Lacina: What's going to be important for leaders to understand about talent scarcity in the year ahead?
Valeria Beaulieu: I believe that for leaders there are really three things they need to think about. First, talent scarcity is here to stay. Let's start with the age pyramid and more people leaving the workforce than people entering the workforce, this is a situation that we have to adjust and rethink about.
Talent scarcity is not only about filling jobs, it's also about making sure that you fill the jobs with the right qualification and the right people.”
And I believe that the second thing is talent scarcity is not only about filling jobs, it's also about making sure that you fill the jobs with the right qualification and the right people. And that leads to the second thing, which has been a very big theme in Davos this year, which is skills and reskilling, upskilling and making sure that you assess the skills that you have in your organization and how you need to evolve them to the next level. And I think this is also a big, big topic.
And then I think the third topic is about care, because a lot of the research that we've done on talent scarcity and retention mechanism is about making sure that you develop a relationship with your employees where they will be able to feel that they can come with their whole self at work and they can really find their own purpose in doing the work with you.
So, three elements that I believe leaders need to think about when it comes to talent scarcity.
Linda Lacina: And I think it was an interesting point that you made that, you know, scarcity is here to stay. Let's talk a little bit about that, because I think that a lot of people have felt that as the pandemic moved on, that, 'oh, that was over,' that there was this thing, they would get over this mountain and then all of this, the world, would just — like an on and off switch — these things would be gone.
What's needed to recalibrate for a world that is always going to be sort of pushing forward where you're not maybe always going to have 'enough,' whatever that is. Can we talk a little bit about that?
Valeria Beaulieu: Yes, absolutely. I think what we realised with the pandemic is that the rapid succession of crises, starting with a pandemic and then we had the supply chain issues that were immediately after the pandemic, then we have this unfortunate and awful war in Ukraine and now the inflation that ensues. So, the rapid succession of crises are just giving us the signals that we live in that world that is in constant transformation.
Talent scarcity is also another way of talking about this constant adjustment of skills that we need in the workplace.”
And when you have to cope with a world that is in constant transformation, you need to adjust your organization all the time. And when you say you have to adjust your organization all the time, you have to make sure that your people have the skills to be successful in this new organization and that, in turn, the organization will be successful to deliver on their outcomes.
So that's how I see the world that we are in. And if you add the digital transformation, the acceleration of the trends on digital and automation that are not there to slow down either when you read the papers on, you know, ChatGPT and all that is coming here, this will profoundly transform the work. And so, I think this talent scarcity is also another way of talking about this constant adjustment of skills that we need in the workplace.
Linda Lacina: What are the skills that we need to be adjusting for? What would they be?
Valeria Beaulieu: Well, I think one of the things that we should say on the back of my example, on the digital transformation, is that digital skills are table stakes. And so, no matter which role you have, having a minimum digital savviness will be expected. So, I think it's also a message for workers, all of us employees around the world. We need to make sure that we have this minimum digital savviness in our own line of business. So, I believe these are kind of the minimum and the skills that are making a very big difference for the future output.
Digital skills are table stakes.”
For the rest, I think it will be dependent on the reorganization of the work. If you think about the automotive industry, we have a number of clients in the automotive industry, you can see that the big topic at hand is around sustainability and how do you transform an automotive industry which was very much fossil fuel-anchored, to becoming more electrified? So that's what’s at stake for the automotive industry today. But it will be different for life science where it's all about personalised medicine and personalised care. And so, I think all these things show that there is no 'one-size-fits-all,' though it's more about looking at the specific skills for the outcome that you're looking for in your own industry.
Linda Lacina: And if you're a worker and you hear, oh gosh, talent scarcity, you know, maybe there's going to be some opportunity that I could be like, you know, calibrating for. How should they be thinking about this? What question should they be asking themselves?
Valeria Beaulieu: I think for workers, it's a huge opportunity because all the statistics show that unemployment, at least in the Western world, is at an all-time low so there is a big opportunity for workers to think about what am I good at? What do I want to do, what do I strive for? And really looking at reconciling work with their own purpose.
I think this has been a very big topic post-pandemic, where by converging life and work, people are just saying, I don't want to have one that is exclusive of the other. I really want to have joy and purpose in both of my lives: my personal life and my work life. And so, this is one thing that the current state of the market is providing a huge opportunity for. I think at the same time, the question we should ask ourselves, us as workers and all our peers, workers out there, is what am I ready to learn and what do I want to be curious about? And going into that mindset that probably the diploma that I got out of school, it might be a good table stakes, but that's not enough for me to stay relevant in the marketplace. So, my relevance will come from my ability to stay curious, to learn new skills and to be open to the opportunities around.
Linda Lacina: And what about retention? In the areas that are really, really in demand, it's going to be really important for employers to make sure that they keep the people in those spots. What are going to be the three ingredients to retention that employers should be thinking about?
Valeria Beaulieu: Well, I think retention, people think often, oh, it's all about salary. Let's increase the salary. And indeed, we've published research where we show that salary’s one of the reasons why people leave the company. What was very interesting is that when you look at the reason why people stay in the companies, salary comes at the sixth place. It doesn't even make the top five. And in the top five you find things such as career development. And it's very interesting to see that 77% of the people we interrogate — so, it was dozens of thousands of people around the world that we asked — 77% says, I don't think I have the skills for the future. And so, the majority of people now are looking at their company: are you going to offer me the ability to grow my skills to stay relevant? Are you offering me career development? That has made up in the top three reasons why I would stay in the company. So that's point one.
The second ingredient, I think, is about all that relates to mental health. Also, we saw coming into the top five reason why I stay in a company is companies where I feel that my mental health will be taken into account. And it's interesting to see there are so many areas today that people are just not taking advantage of the benefits that companies may put there. And it has a lot to do with, I believe, the culture. When talking about mental health is still taboo people will just not activate the benefit. For example, in that same research we were seeing that only a third of the people would take the leave they are entitled in case of mental health issues. They don't dare speak about it. It's still a mark they don't want to carry. So, I think this is another area that that we need to look into.
And obviously the one I'm finishing with, which is almost the one we should have started with, which is skills and development, where really we need to continue to make sure that we give the opportunity for people to develop to areas they enjoy.
Linda Lacina: Bosses probably would say, 'well, of course, of course we support mental health' and 'of course where you're giving people great opportunities.' But a lot of times they're sort of separated from what's actually going on. What is the gut check to make sure that they are giving people the opportunity to upskill or that they are supporting and making people feel like their mental health needs are being met? What is the check they can see whether it's working or it's not?
Valeria Beaulieu: The managers have a very big role to play because you can institutionalise, by a few principles, how you want to take care of the mental health of your employees as a company. But it's very hard, to your point, to identify, do I do a good job? And there was also a very interesting statistic, I think it was 44%, of the employees who felt that their managers were not equipped to support them because mental health starts by care and care has to be personal. And if as a manager, I am not in tune to what's your emotional state, I think we start with breach in the kind of contract of 'I truly care about your mental health.'
By the way, there is also, if you are cynical for just a moment, there is also a benefit for the company, which is when employees are struggling with mental health issues, they have negative emotions, they lose attention to work. They make mistakes, they’re negative. And so, I think these are signals, I think, for managers to say, 'hey, maybe I need to be closer to my employees and to really listen to where do they hurt.' And some we can do something as a company. Some will be personal. But I think acknowledging and being aware of the personal situation is critical to really advance the situation on the mental health issue.
Linda Lacina: You are a former journalist. How does that help you in your work?
Valeria Beaulieu: Oh, well, I see news circulate. I think what I carry with me, because I started my career as a journalist, is being curious, asking questions and becoming unbiased to all the points of view that you have in the room. And for me, it's been very helpful as a leader, especially when you position yourself not as an expert, but really as a coach. And what I found when I was a journalist, especially when I had to do one-on-one interviews, establishing that relationship was super critical to really get the best of the conversation. And I think we were just talking about care, mental health. That's what we are asking the leaders. We are asking the leaders not only to be giving the clarity on the goals, giving the sense of direction, but also to be able to establish true relationships. And I think that I carry that from my past work as a journalist.
Linda Lacina: That sort of sense of curiosity, but also looking at the world like a journalist, looking for trends, looking for something that maybe isn't known yet, is that maybe a helpful thing for leaders as they look at where the road might go for jobs, for retention. Is that something you would recommend?
Valeria Beaulieu: I think you are absolutely spot on because when you are a journalist, you're in and you’re out at the same time. And I think the ability to put yourself on the balcony, to look at your own company, to look at your own market, to be able indeed to evaluate new threats, new opportunities, patterns that when you are inside, you may not be able to identify. And I am totally with you. That's why I believe very much in the servant leader, the coach leader, who has that ability to take a step back, not necessarily a step up, because I don't believe in that type of hierarchy, but more a step back and to really encourage their teams to find the solutions where they might not see it immediately. So absolutely, I think this helicopter view, as we call it, being able to go up and look from a distance as journalists may do, because they are outside of the core of the business, is a critical trait of the leader of today.
Linda Lacina: Is there a book that you recommend?
Valeria Beaulieu: Recently I've re-read a book that is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I love that book and I think it was so timely as we get into even more uncertain times and uncharted waters with, you know, the crises, the inflation, the war continuing. People more than ever, they need to feel supported. I love that book and the mantra of it, which is care personally and challenge constructively — for me, that's also a mantra that I make mine. Because if you really care about your people, you need to tell them the truth. And if you really want to grow them, they need to know where they are in their development journey.
If you really care about your people, you need to tell them the truth. And if you really want to grow them, they need to know where they are in their development journey.”
And if you're not transparent, you are also breaching the trust. How would they believe you if you never tell them where they are on the spectrum, you know, or if you are too vague when you praise their talent or if you're not specific enough when you are giving feedback on something, they have an opportunity to improve. But if you do that with personal care and coming from the heart and respecting always the individual, I think this can do wonders into establishing first, a very healthy environment and work, but also driving great results.
Linda Lacina: And the last question: what should leaders be prioritising in 2023?
Valeria Beaulieu: People.
Linda Lacina: And how so?
Valeria Beaulieu: Yeah, I would say it's probably all of the above. You may have the best strategy in the world. You may have the best analysis of what's going on. First, you don't have a crystal ball. And second, nothing will ever happen in your company if your people are not lined up around you to make it happen. And that absolutely touches do you have the right skills at the right place? So, are they ready to take on the challenge you need them to take on? So indeed, being clear on was the capability you have in the organization. Do you have the right programmes to prepare them for what's coming?
But also, are they motivated? Are they going to follow you? Do they have this sense of purpose? So that's why I think it's all of the above, including mental health, skilling, career development, clarity on the purpose that you are bringing forth. And I think with all of that, you can bring your company to the next level.
Linda Lacina: That was Valerie Beaulieu. Thanks to her and thanks so much to you for listening. A transcript of this episode and my colleagues’ episodes, Radio Davos and the Book Club podcast, is available at wef.ch/podcasts. If you like this episode, check out the first episode from this year, number 67 with Mona Mourshed. She's the head of Generation a global non-profit helping to tackle stubborn unemployment gaps around the world. She'll talk about tackling hiring blindspots and what's needed to overcome them.
This episode of Meet the Leader was presented and produced by me with Juan Toran as studio engineer, Jere Johansson as editor and Gareth Nolan driving studio production.
That's it for now. I'm Linda Lacina with the World Economic Forum. Have a great day.