opinion piece

BLOG – Bridging the Gap: New expectations require concrete actions

After reflecting on the – many – gaps that exist today in the world of work, let’s lay out some practical ways in which the private employment services sector will act as the “great connector”. Tom Hadley draws on the inspiring conversations that took place at the World Employment Conference 2022.

Published on 19th July 2022

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at how the global HR services sector can take a lead in bridging a number of emerging gaps: public policy gaps, skills gaps, perceptions gaps…But perhaps the most urgent gap to bridge remains the one that between the evolving expectations of workers and the equally fast-changing needs of employers. The question is how.

Setting the scene at the recent conference in Brussels, World Employment Confederation President Bettina Schaller laid down a marker for the industry’s pivotal role in this area: “We are here to connect the evolving expectations of employers and workers”. So what does this look like in practice, what specific activities will demonstrate the industry’s role as the ‘great connectors’? Here’s a few:

  1. Mastering the art of ‘active listening’ – Recruitment and HR services professionals are in daily contact with workers and job-seekers. What an opportunity to ask good questions and reflect on a steady stream of insight and feedback! Using this intelligence to inform not only the attraction strategies of client organisations but also their ongoing workforce management capability is the way ahead! Part of this ongoing intelligence gathering exercise includes understanding why individuals have left previous jobs or placements – how and why were their expectation not met?


  1. Taking a lead on ‘next gen’ research and thought leadership – HR services firms across the world already conduct regular worker surveys and labour market research. Aggregating the messages from candidates and jobseekers and drawing the right conclusions provides an opportunity to be the voice of changing worker needs and expectations. This is also an opportunity to complement to anecdotal feedback from individual work-seekers and further boost understanding of what drives attrition and turns potential candidates off a new role.


  1. Helping clients revamp their employer brand – Employers need help in understanding what jobseekers really think about their employer brand and reputation as a place to work. HR services providers are intermediaries in the labour market; they hear feedback from individuals that no one else has access to. Making use of this intelligence to provide strategic ‘candidate attraction’ advice to clients is one of the best examples of added value. The challenge here is to ensure that that any new ‘employer brand’ approaches are based on substance and are not cosmetic marketing exercises. HR services professionals are very adept at seeing through the fog!


  1. Making transitions happen – Driving effective reskilling initiative is a major discussion theme across the world. But, facilitating career transitions must involve a deep understanding of what really motivates people and a recognition that – for the majority of individuals – reskilling is a source of concern and anxiety. We need to move beyond careers guidance towards genuine careers coaching – career management support and expertise have never been more important! And this includes a firm grasp of human psychology and of people’s expectations during periods of change and disruption.


  1. Taking a long-term view – In addition to being in daily contact with individuals seeking new work opportunities in the here and now, recruitment and HR services professionals are building relationships with local schools, colleges and universities. The aim is to help the next generation understand the shape-shifting world of work and better to visualise potential career paths. Looking ahead, these interactions can be used to not only impart information and guidance, but to ask young people what they think about the world and work. What are their hopes and fears, what are their expectations? The expectations gap is fluid and will evolve; this is the opportunity for better understanding the motivations and drivers of individuals who will be entering the labour force in the coming years.


  1. Nurturing a new cohort of employment and HR services professionals – Practising what we preach has been a recurring theme of the ‘Bridging the Gap’ blog series. And nowhere is this more prescient than in using awareness of what people want and expect to attract, retain, and develop a new generation into the recruitment and HR services profession. Using this first-hand knowledge of what make people tick is also at the heart of creating an energised, committed and inclusive workforce. This has implications for how we manage and incentivise staff, and big changes are afoot here too. Over 3.7 million people already work within the HR services sector globally, according the latest WEC Economic Report. There is a genuine appetite to innovate and ensure that recruitment and HR services continues to blossom into a profession of choice for million of people across the world.

Every year, over 50 million individuals access new work opportunities through the private employment services industry worldwide. With this comes awareness of what makes people tick,  what factors impact the most on employment-related decisions, and what really drives performance, discretionary effort and a sense of belonging. Nurturing this understanding is at the very heart of being a ‘people industry’.

Tom Hadley is an independent workforce and campaigns consultant. The Bridging the Gap blog series  focuses on how the global industry can build on the insight and collective energy generated at the World Employment Conference 2022. 

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