Rewiring Employment In A New Age

Mark Kramer Grads of Life

An employment crisis is brewing. Recent research on the impact of artificial intelligence and automation estimates that there will be 38 million jobs lost in the U.S. by the year 2030. Without significant interventions, this could translate into a 23.5% unemployment rate—equivalent to the peak unemployment rate during the Depression in 1933. Those hit hardest will be the 87 million people in frontline and early career jobs. The consequences are potentially devastating for our economy and for millions of individuals and families.

The most immediate and powerful solution lies with companies. Employers can begin to compete with the changing nature of work and automation by upskilling existing talent and providing creative pathways for advancement. This investment pays for itself; companies that have restructured their hiring, management, and training of entry-level workers have seen dramatic reductions in turnover and increases in productivity.

Tyson has made this commitment and is now seeing proof of a return. Through Upward Academy, an onsite workplace education program run in partnership with local community organizations, Tyson provides training and support services to employees, including ESL and functional literacy. In 2017, Upward Academy reached more than 710 team members. This month, Tyson launched Upward Academy in its 27th processing plant. Preliminary results are promising, and Tyson leadership recently made a public commitment to scale the Upward Academy approach to offer English as a Second Language and financial literacy training to all employees.

“The problem we are trying to address is the issue of stability,” says Kevin Scherer, senior manager for employee social responsibility at Tyson. “My team deeply believes that if you can bring stability to a person in family life you can bring stability to workforce metrics. It makes great business sense.”

AT&T is pursuing upskilling in the context of rapidly advancing technologies, and the growing need for a workforce that can keep pace. AT&T employs roughly 280,000 people, most of whom received their job training in a different era, technologically speaking. Rather starting fresh with an entirely new crop of workers, the company has committed to retaining and upskilling their current employees, including equipping them with skills in cloud-based computing, coding, data science, and other technical capabilities. This new initiative, called Workforce2020, began by engaging managers to develop “future role profiles” and then design training to map to the projected needs of those profiles. While it’s early to measure the full results of this work, AT&T is already seeing early signs of success: in the past 18 months AT&T has reduced its product-development cycle time by 40% and accelerated time to revenue by 32%, which ultimately boils down to a profit increase for the company.

Tyson’s and AT&T’s talent strategies are illustrative of the ways companies will need to rewire their talent systems now if they want to remain competitive in the labor market of the future. This rewiring not only addresses immediate and future business needs, but it builds the internal capacity of the company to shift and respond to new workforce trends and challenges as they develop.

FSG, the Shared Value Initiative, and over a dozen employers we’ve partnered with will discuss this topic in-depth at REWIRE: Unlocking Talent Strategies for Today and Tomorrow, on June 13 in San Francisco. We’ll be sharing powerful examples of companies rewiring their internal practices and exploring ways to experiment with new approaches to hiring, retaining, and advancing employees in this new age of work.


Rewiring Employment In A New Age