Why we need adaptable talent

Michael RendellAuthor: Michael Rendell, Global HR consulting network leader

As parts of the global economy start to recover, we find ourselves in a business environment hampered by skills mismatches which are compounded by the multi-speed nature of the recovery.  Worldwide unemployment continues to rise while jobs go unfilled and demographic shifts alter the picture in much of the developed world. Half of all CEOs globally intend to increase their headcount over the next year, but 63% are worried about the availability of key skills curtailing their plans. A real paradox in a world teeming with more people than ever before. 

The capacity of a market to match supply and demand efficiently depends on the ability and willingness of employers and employees to adapt to changing circumstances and align skills with available opportunities. If this alignment is less than perfect, a mismatch occurs, optimum productivity can’t be reached and somebody (or everybody) is discontent.

In a fast-moving world, talent adaptability is critical. So what can employers, governments and individuals do to become more adaptable?

Adapt to survive infographic

Employers: Nurture, celebrate and embrace adaptable people

The organisations which will be the winners of tomorrow will need to be able to react quickly to an evolving business landscape and to innovate, innovate and innovate (and not be afraid to destroy and rebuild their business model repeatedly). Innovation is powered by diverse thinking and experiences so businesses need adaptable people.

There are two essential ingredients to adaptability. First, the ability of employers to look differently at sources of talent - investigating new geographies and sectors, as well as investing in existing employees by equipping them with the necessary skills and motivating them to adapt to meet new challenges.   Secondly, of course, this requires willing individuals who are prepared to embrace change and apply their skills somewhere new.

Employers need to cleverly balance internal mobility – developing and nurturing the adaptable people they already have – with external recruitment strategies that identify the skills they need from a wide range of sources.  Online professional networks give organisations access to a larger talent pool and, critically, access to passive candidates - those not actively looking for jobs.  More visibility, coupled with adaptable talent and broad-minded employers, creates better hiring.

Governments: Create the climate for adaptability
As nations look to support the vitality of their economies in an increasingly competitive global economic market, matching individuals’ skills with employers’ needs in a way that creates the most value for both – and for the economy as a whole – is crucial. Governments should play an active role in shaping a national mind-set that values, supports and nurtures adaptability. They need to use the levers at their disposal, such as tax incentives and immigration laws, and especially the education and training system. This is a long-term investment and one that governments must not subsume beneath short-term political goals.

Our recent 17th Annual Global CEO Survey found that although 41% of respondents feel that creating a skilled workforce should be a top priority for government, just 21% believe that their government has been effective in doing so. Talent adaptability drives more value for individuals, companies and national economies and, in my view, should be a key focus of government policy.

Individuals: Embrace adaptability in order to future-proof your career - don't try and predict the future; just be ready for whatever it brings
Individuals should also take a longer-term view of their careers and seek out work environments that will help them to be more adaptable in the future. Remaining open-minded about your career path and embracing change is key here.

And this isn’t something that only concerns the young. People at 40, for example, still need to plan for almost two-thirds of their working life. They need to be as adaptable today as they were on graduation – perhaps more so, given the difference between the skills they nurtured at the start of their career and those needed now.

The world won’t stand still – those who embrace adaptable talent are best placed to survive. Those who don’t may not.

Find out more in our new report, Adapt to Survive, which, for the first time, brings together the two of the most comprehensive sources of talent data in the world: the real-time behaviours drawn from LinkedIn’s 277 million members and employer information from PwC’s Saratoga database of people and performance metrics, which covers more than 2,600 employers across the globe. 


Michael is a partner with PwC in the UK and leads the Firm’s Global Human Resources Consulting practice. During his time with the firm, he’s had a variety of roles and client responsibilities – with a particular focus on reward and the deployment of talent globally.  Read Michael's biography here.


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Hi Michael - Great post.

One aspect on which I'd like your views is how we pass knowledge from one generation (role or otherwise) to the next in this wider context.

Apprenticeships are a great example of passing on knowledge in a specific discipline but don't we need more innovative approaches and technologies that enable people to experience new areas and opportunities and quickly acquire the new knowledge and skills.

I came across the ideas of how Steve Jobs presented which can be seen via this link - http://www.knowledgegenes.com/home.aspx?kgid=23346.

I believe that this is a great example of how knowledge can be shared on a subject in a simple but powerful way as it highlights WHAT is being done, HOW it should be done and WHY it is important.

Do you agree that we need to give individuals better tools and support to encourage more people to embrace change and have to motivation to try new things?

very interesting in reading the topics ,want more and more information

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