See notes to editors for interview bids.
A post-pandemic remarginalization of disadvantaged workers risks creating a ‘talent trap’ for employers
- Young people, older workers, working mums and other groups risk being pushed back to the fringes of the world of work following the Covid-19 pandemic
- David Fairhurst, one of the world’s most influential HR practitioners, warns that a failure to continue to invest in these previously underrepresented groups of workers will create a ‘talent trap’ for employers when the economy recovers
- Evidence is already emerging that this investment is being withdrawn
London, 7th May 2020 – David Fairhurst warns that firms risk falling into a disastrous talent trap if they fail to respond decisively to the potential remarginalization of previously underrepresented groups in the workforce.
In 2014 Fairhurst forecast in an interview with the Financial Times that, within a decade, declining birth-rates in the major global economies would lead to labour shortages on a scale that would cripple economic growth – a ‘workforce cliff’.[i]
His predictions were correct, and by the beginning of 2020 demand for employees was already beginning to outstrip supply, with countries around the world reporting record levels of employment and unfilled vacancies as they neared the edge of the workforce cliff.
A key strategy used by businesses in this increasingly competitive labour market had been to hire from a much wider pool of talent. They had done this through investment in progressive employment practices, often targeting groups which had historically been underrepresented in the workforce. These included young people, older workers, women returners, people with disabilities, migrants, and individuals from disadvantaged communities.
Covid-19 has had a seismic impact on the global economy, and Fairhurst is now predicting that it has pushed back the impact of the workforce cliff by 3-5 years. He warns, however, that if firms now pull-the-plug on the investment they have made in their employment practices in light of the easing pressure on the labour market, they risk remarginalizing these historically underrepresented groups.
He points out that this could have serious medium-term consequences for organisations as the underlying demographic changes creating the workforce cliff remain.
Fairhurst emphasises that “the faster the recovery, the faster the challenges of labour supply and demand will return. Those organisations that have invested in maintaining the diversity of their workforces will quickly gain a significant competitive advantage – a diversity dividend. Those, on the other hand, that have failed to invest risk falling into a talent trap they will struggle to escape from.”
Evidence is emerging, however, that this investment is already beginning to be withdrawn.
A poll conducted between April 3rd and 8th by d&I Leaders[ii] – a global community of senior Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) professionals – found that “four in ten said that they worried that D&I would fall off the agenda at their organisation” as a result of Covid-19.
In conversation with Fairhurst, Stephen Frost – CEO of Frost Included and former Head of D&I for the London Olympic and Paralympic Games – said “post-Covid-19, companies can either sustain, postpone, or cancel their D&I programmes. In the UK almost three-quarters have already cancelled or postponed – and in the US many companies have done the same.”
Fairhurst also shares a conversation with Susan Reichle – President and CEO of the International Youth Foundation which has just launched a ‘Global Youth Resiliency Fund’[iii] to speed resources to young people – who told him that she can already see young people from disadvantaged backgrounds facing difficulties in accessing the education and training they need. “There has been a significant shift by organisations to online delivery of programmes which is creating a barrier for young people who might not have up-to-date computers or might be struggling to pay for internet access. These are the young people whose leadership we need to seize our future. As a society we cannot afford to leave them behind.” With both Barclay’s CEO Jes Stanley and WPP CEO Mark Read predicting that remote and dispersed working could increasingly become the norm[iv], this Digital Roadblock will become an increasingly difficult hurdle for these young people to overcome.
Similar concerns are also reflected in the findings of the second UK Association of Employment and Learning Providers Covid-19 impact survey[v] that if no guarantees of financial support from the Department for Education are forthcoming, half of training providers will downsize, mothball their business, or shut down completely, meaning that hundreds of thousands of young people and unemployed adults will have no training available to them when the crisis is over.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the International Labour Organisation has forecast that older workers are likely “to experience higher unemployment and underemployment rates, as well as decreased working hours” following the Covid-19 pandemic[vi].
At a time when the number of UK pensioners are living in poverty has risen to two million[vii] (16%) and almost a quarter (24%) have no savings[viii], the remarginalization of older workers risks inciting a wave of Age Rage across the country.
To avoid falling into the talent trap created by remarginalization, Fairhurst suggests employers focus their efforts on a small number of targeted interventions:
- Active engagement with underrepresented groups. “For over 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (iyfnet.org) have worked with partners around the world in ensuring that youth develop the technical and life skills they need to earn a livelihood. Partnering with them gives employers accelerated access to the young people who need their support the most. Meanwhile, Rest Less (www.restless.co.uk) works with age-diverse organisations to help people in their 50s, 60s, and beyond find a role which meets their needs.”
- Enhancing employee wellbeing. “Post Covid-19 pandemic, employers will be judged on the care they give to the physical and mental wellbeing of employees – both in the workplace and in their lives outside work. I predict that we will see many organisations creating a new leadership role: Chief Wellbeing Officer. With money and mental health being so closely linked, a valuable tool for all workers to gain control and greater flexibility over their finances is income streaming. Wagestream (wagestream.co.uk), for example, enables workers to track their wages, access advances on pay they have already earned, create saving plans which automatically set aside a small amount of monthly earnings, and access financial education programmes and money management tools.”
- Embedding Diversity & Inclusion into post-pandemic HR Strategies. “A progressive approach to D&I will be critical if organisations are to avoid the looming talent trap. At OrgShakers (OrgShakers.com) we are already talking to a number of major global businesses about the integration of D&I policies and initiatives into their core strategy.”
— ENDS —
Notes to Editors
For more information and to request an interview with David Fairhurst, contact:
Andy Parsley, OrgShakers | email@example.com | +44 7810 894171
David Fairhurst was former Executive Vice President, Global Chief People Officer at McDonald’s Corporation – one of the world’s largest HR and Training leadership positions with oversight of almost 2-million employees in over 120 countries.
For four consecutive years Fairhurst was voted the UK’s ‘Most Influential Practitioner’ by readers of HR Magazine, receiving their lifetime achievement award in 2012. He was also the first HR professional to be named ‘Business Communicator of the Year’ by the Institute of Internal Communications – a title previously awarded to leading business figures such as Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, and Virgin founder Richard Branson.
Born in 1968 in Wigan, David grew up as part of a family of retailers, and amongst his earliest memories are “helping out” in his grandfather’s grocery store. David earned his bachelor’s degree at Lancaster University and his master’s degree at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School which has recognised his ongoing contribution as a Visiting Professor with an honorary Doctorate in Business Administration. He also holds an honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Middlesex University.
Fairhurst is a Global Strategic Advisor to Wagestream and Rest Less.
Frost Included – f(i) – is a unique consulting company that embeds inclusion in decision-making. f(i) operates worldwide and focuses on both conscious leadership development and unconscious system nudges to make organisations more diverse and inclusive. Clients range from global multinationals to governments, academia, media and pro bono. f(i) are especially proud of their focus on outcomes and developing productive sustainable relationships with the teams we work with. For more information please visit www.frostincluded.com
The International Youth Foundation (IYF) is a global youth network, an organization advocating for youth empowerment and connecting countries to knowledge, experience, and resources to help young people build a better future.
The IYF works to empower youth in line with 2030 Global Goals Agenda, to create a sustainable world for all young people through education, advocacy, and the promotion of respect and compassion.
The IYF informs, engages, and mobilizes new audiences to take action and raise funds that support sustainable development programs for youth around the world.
Rest Less launched in December 2018 and is a membership community for the over 50s designed to help its members get more out of life. Rest Less has thousands of jobs available on its site from progressive age-diverse employers across the country. Rest Less is the leading site in the UK to offer flexible opportunities to work, volunteer or even start a new career path, specifically targeting the rapidly growing over 50s market.
Wagestream is on a mission to bring better financial health to workers across the globe. By putting workplace data into the hands of workers, Wagestream’s financial solutions allow employees to track, budget, save and stream their earnings, all in real time without impacting employers’ cash flow.
Wagestream unlocks the constraints of the monthly pay cycle and eradicates the debt issues and financial stress many workers face between pay days. Wagestream was founded with a social purpose and it’s early charity investors include Fair by Design, Joseph Rowntree, Barrow Cadbury Trust, and Big Society Capital, social impact charities committed to improving the financial lives of everyday people.
The company has responded to the Covid-19 crisis by making the service free to the NHS, they have also sped up the onboarding process from 3 weeks to just 24 hours. Wagestream also has built a solution for employees to access furlough income and statutory sick pay.
Wagestream Ltd is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority as an EMD Agent (reference 902046) of PayrNet Limited, an Electronic Money Institution authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (reference number: 900594).