February 26, 2021

We need to focus on skills if we want to deliver a sustainable recovery post-pandemic

by Denis Pennel


To ensure a swift and sustainable labour market recovery following the Covid crisis we will need to prioritise work and skills. This will require policies that reconcile investing in workers to equip them with the skills they will need in the new normal, with the pressure on cash-strapped companies to cut costs.


This is where career management services have a role to play. They support companies in investing in their people and their own future by offering coaching, mentoring, career development, change management and outplacement.


Organisations that invest in learning and development have the chance to create the workforce that will meet their strategic needs in the years to come. Career management services can help organisations take a coherent approach to strategic workforce planning by taking the long view on jobs, skills and business performance: identifying future needs; assessing where current skills-gaps lie and looking ahead to a pipeline of high-potential individuals who have the qualities needed to adapt and lead in the new world of work. In a world where we will all need to learn to do more with less, many organisations will look to bridge talent gaps by upskilling current staff rather than hiring new ones.



By empowering their people to take career ownership and understand the value they bring, organisations can deliver the internal mobility that they need. Research shows that skills training often results in greater employee loyalty as people value the investment that has been made in them and have a clearer view of their future with the organisation. The investment also supports workers’ emotional wellbeing and makes them more motivated and productive.


We have also seen an increase in individuals interested in career support services over the past 12 months. These are not people who have lost their job, but rather those who have witnessed the profound changes in labour markets over the course of the pandemic and felt that they should be better prepared for the new normal.


We need to create a sustainable learning culture in which we all view skills development as an ongoing feature of our worklife journey. Learning is for life and workers need to be equipped for the future – even if they don’t yet know where it will lead.  Too often, people only realise the importance of investing in their career when they lose their job. Protecting people’s work and employability keeps them relevant in the labour market and workers supported by career management services transition into new work opportunities at least 50% faster than those who are not.


Preparing people with the right skills to meet the needs of the labour market enables them to transition easily into new and emerging roles and industries. Such speedy redeployment not only helps workers in staying gainfully employed and being able to support themselves and their families, it also eases pressure on public employment services and governments.


Skills shortages were already at an all-time high before the pandemic hit. This hasn’t changed and 42% of businesses surveyed are placing greater importance on reskilling and upskilling post-Covid. Our sector views learning and development as a constant priority and supports people in building their employability around three axes: training, networking and personal branding.  This goes beyond skills to include creating a strong cv and expanding your professional social network. Technology is essential here as social platforms and online meetings allow for engagement even when we can’t get together physically.


Often, when considering their skills base, workers don’t think beyond their current occupation. This can lead people to continue to search for jobs in the same sector even though the industry may be on the wane and jobs vacancies falling. In the current crisis, keeping people in employment without providing them with the skills needed to stay relevant in the labour market, risks that they will become obsolete the minute that government subsidies end.

Responsiveness, flexibility and adaptability will be key requirements in the post-Covid era and labour market policies will need to promote career guidance to support workers in remaining employable in a competitive labour market.


At the end of the day, the value of work goes way beyond a single job.  Work fulfils aspirations and provides self-confidence and a sense of value and purpose to our lives. Career management services provide people with the skills they need to access work, but crucially they also equip them with the awareness and orientation support that they need to take ownership of their careers and professional lives – whatever the future might throw at them.


Denis Pennel

Managing Director, World Employment Confederation



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