ManpowerGroup, a leading global workforce solutions company, makes people and the future of work a central pillar of its mission. For Chairman & CEO Jonas Prising – Steward of the Future of Education, Gender and Work Global System at the World Economic Forum – confronting the role of employees in a digitized world will be key to driving growth and addressing increasing polarization and uncertainty in the global economy.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is affecting a lot of people in different ways and not all of them positively,” he says. “The concern around polarization, aside from the obvious stress on people and communities, is that it's starting to affect politics and ideology in a way that makes the environment unpredictable and highly volatile. There's clearly a part of the population that has been left behind.”

While a lot of attention has focused on the potential negative impact of automation technologies on jobs, Prising believes that this detracts from what is actually important: building the skills that companies will need to succeed and drive long-term value in a digitized world. “Too much time is spent on debating the impact of job elimination and not enough time on the need for a skills revolution,” he says.

To be resilient in the face of increasing digital disruption, leaders need a forward-looking strategy for building the talent profile and people skills their organization will need to prosper. “We are seeing that employers are finding it difficult to find the skilled talent that they need on a global basis,” says Prising. A holistic approach that combines both strategic hiring and skills development will be critical to closing that gap. “Employers are understanding that they can build skills, they can buy skills, they can borrow skills. Many more companies are trying to upskill and reskill their workforce.”

As companies address the challenges of shifting societal expectations and a changing workforce, Prising outlines how gender diversity needs to be an essential part of the CEO’s agenda, helping drive what he calls a culture of “conscious inclusion”. “When I started as a CEO, five years ago, I had mapped out already my succession that I wanted to see,” he says. “This was to have one or two internal successors, of which one has to be a woman.”

“Imagining a timeline of 10 years, we mapped backwards at what level we would need women to participate at senior leadership and executive levels to stand the chance of creating a pipeline of internal talent. And that's what we've been working on now for the last five years. We've made some excellent progress, because when you make it very specific and action driven, you can actually measure your progress. And that's what it's all about.”

Jonas Prising

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The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewees and survey respondents and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of KPMG International or any KPMG member firm.  KPMG’s involvement is not an endorsement, sponsorship or implied backing of any company’s products or services.