3 Key Insights on the Future of Work from LinkedIn’s Virtual Event

April 1, 2021

Photo of man working from home with toddler playing next to his desk

Energy was in the virtual air on Tuesday as thousands of talent professionals from around the globe joined Forward, a LinkedIn Live event focused on the future of work. We were honored to hear a dozen industry leaders share insights across three key topics: skills-based hiring and internal mobility; diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity; and flexible work. Motivational speaker Mel Robbins and best-selling author Jay Shetty cohosted the 90-minute event, which featured panels, story segments, and a Q&A.

For those who tuned in, thank you for engaging in the live chat, asking your questions, and advancing the conversations. From South Africa to Hungary, Indonesia to Canada, your comments showed that you’re already shaping a better future for your organizations and society as a whole. 

If you missed the livestream, you can access the full program here or check out the highlights below. Here are the three biggest takeaways:

1. A skills-based talent strategy is the new gold standard

The panelists agreed that reframing hiring around skill needs, not people needs, grows the talent pool and makes search more inclusive. Fiona Vines, head of inclusion and diversity and workforce transition at BHP, says her company deconstructs its jobs before they’re advertised. This reveals what knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) BHP will need today and in the future, what they already have, and what they need to bring in. 

“It's no longer enough just to look for years of experience or degrees,” Fiona says. “We need to redesign the jobs and think about them completely differently.” LinkedIn data shows we’re making progress: there was a 21% increase in job postings emphasizing skills instead of qualifications on the platform last year.

“We’re encouraging people to hire for capability, not necessarily for linear experience or because the candidate held a similar title at a competitor,” says Ramcess Jean-Louis, global chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at Verizon Media. “In doing so, we’re broadening the lens.” Ram is seeing a mindset shift too. “Hiring managers,” he says, “are really learning to understand that what they need is not a person — it’s skills — to fill a particular gap.” 

One way to screen for capability is to look for a growth mindset, says Lauren Gardner, corporate vice president of global talent acquisition at Microsoft. “We want people who can grow and develop far beyond the job that we’re interviewing them for.” So Microsoft has created interview guides to help attract and identify candidates with this learner mentality, those who believe their success comes from determination and hard work more than anything else. 

The panelists were clear that skills-based hiring isn’t just about the talent acquisition phase. Success requires systemic change, from putting the right learning systems in place to fostering a culture where skill-learning and lateral experience, not just upward mobility, are celebrated. Yes, across really is the new up.

2. Leading businesses are pressing hard for accountability in their DEI programs

Diversity initiatives have been around for some time but last year’s murder of George Floyd compelled companies to take a deeper and more urgent look internally. “We all felt the palpable difference in energy, so we had to recommit not only to diversity but to social justice,” says Laura Long, vice president of national equity, inclusion, and diversity at Kaiser Permanente. “That meant interrogating our systems like never before and listening intently across our organizations. Those stories were painful, but going deeper was the only way to go.”

Fiona from BHP advises treating diversity targets with the same rigor as you would a sales or production target — with accountability, transparency, and progress checks. “Achieving diversity without a target is nothing more than a hope,” she says. Her company’s quest for gender parity means an annual goal of a 3% increase in female representation is in top leaders’ scorecards and gets reported on publicly. Moving down the organization, middle managers get a target that’s more relevant to them: gender-balanced hiring and turnover. 

The panelists stressed the importance of listening to employee stories and minding the feel of the work environment as well. Data can never be the whole picture. “The lived experiences are what brings the data to life,” reminds Dr. Shirley Davis, president and CEO at SDS Global Enterprises. They help explain the root causes of why your numbers are going up or down. 

3. As companies reconsider their workdays and workspaces, experimentation and empathy have become corporate superpowers 

Being forced to experiment this past year has proved the value of experimenting. Atlassian was already delving into remote work before COVID, but the pandemic accelerated the change. Dom Price, work futurist at the company, admits they didn't know how to onboard or build teams remotely when COVID hit. They had to try things as they grew the workforce by 25%. “Being willing to experiment and explore new ways of working is going to be the superpower of leaders in this modern time,” Dom says. He isn’t alone in believing this. In the last 12 months on LinkedIn, there’s been a sixfold increase in the share of jobs offering remote work and a 3.5x increase in applications for remote jobs. 

Acting now is imperative, says Leena Nair, CHRO at Unilever. “It would be the tragedy of our times,”  she says, “if we didn’t reinvent the workplace in this moment.” Considering that many countries haven’t yet administered a single COVID-19 vaccine, “normal” is still a way off for global organizations like Unilever. Leena expects to see reduced office space that’s redesigned for collaboration and homes kept as focus zones for independent work. She also believes that more people will come into the office only two or three days a week. As a result, organizations need to rethink how to enhance social connections and well-being in the physical workplace, in the digital workplace, and in a combined hybrid workplace. 

Shirley reminds us that people can work from anywhere as long as they have the right resources and support. “People,” Laura adds, “don’t shed their experiences once they walk through our doors” — or log onto Zoom. Whether it’s the pandemic, the political climate, or home life, people bring the outside in. “We need to acknowledge that,” Laura says, “ask what they need, and make them feel valued and heard.” Not all leaders are fully equipped to do this, so organizations need to teach them to spot burnout — especially as burnout is at a two-year high, according to LinkedIn data. 

Your next step forward

For so much more on the topics of flexible work, DEI, and skills-based hiring, watch the full 90-minute program and join the global conversation at #LinkedInForward.    

To go even further, we’ve unlocked three LinkedIn Learning Courses until May 31, 2021: Dr. Shirley Davis’s Inclusive Leadership; Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging; and Advocating for Change in Your Organization. We hope you’ll gain new skills and perspectives and get inspired to take action in your organization and beyond.

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