WORKERS need to be treated as renewable and sustainable resources that require constant investment to keep their skills current, a consulting firm executive said.

Pauline Fermin, president and CEO of Acumen Strategy Consultants, said at a fireside chat at the BusinessWorld Economic Forum 2022 on Tuesday that her clients “are actively investing in capability-building and… in the most critical skills we’re seeing companies and industries need: critical thinking, customer-centricity, communications, and agility.”

She added that upskilling and reskilling need to be pursued systemically and not simply left to the human resources (HR) and learning and development teams.

“Employees might not know what is expected of them; therefore they won’t see why they need to upskill. They might not know their role, (nor) the purpose of the organization, if the leaders are not even clear as to what their business strategies are,” Ms. Fermin said.

An organizational transformation framework that has purpose as its hub — as well as leadership capability, people and performance, and now-normal basics (such as health and safety and role clarity) as its spokes — will ensure that efforts on upskilling and reskilling do not go to waste.

Ms. Fermin noted that “a lot of leaders” still think purpose is fluff.

“Now we’re seeing that these are the real, hard, tough choices you must answer,” she told the fireside chat audience. “Why do you exist? Who is your stakeholder? What value do you bring your stakeholders, including your employees?”

The black swan event that is the pandemic, coupled with the Ukraine-Russia war, have resulted in shifts in customer behavior and the nature of work. A gap has also developed between business outputs and requirements, giving rise to phenomena such as The Great Resignation (or the voluntary quitting of jobs due to a dissatisfaction with working conditions and/or lifestyle changes) and quiet quitting (or doing the bare minimum at work due to disengagement).

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of HR professionals observed an upward trend in company resignations, according to the 2022 State of HR report by Sprout Solutions, a software-as-a-service company that provides HR solutions. With hybrid work creating new opportunities and easier ways to find greener pastures, Sprout said, companies “should prioritize improving compensation and benefits.”

Employees have been and are still being pushed to their limits, noted Ms. Fermin.

“The requirements are a lot more, and yet employees are over-worrying themselves to keep up…,” she said. Employees must be life-long learners and expect V.U.C.A. (Volatile. Uncertain. Complex. Ambiguous) to be the norm, she added, but leaders must likewise know how to lead themselves and their organizations through all the market and business shifts.

“Go and ask your employees what their needs are,” said Ms. Fermin. “Suspend your judgement, really listen, and take it from there.” — Patricia B. Mirasol