The Work We Want: Agile talent in the age of AI

08, May

By Viktorija Proskurovska, Labour Market Intelligence Manager, World Employment Confederation   There is ...

By Viktorija Proskurovska, Labour Market Intelligence Manager, World Employment Confederation


There is little doubt that AI’s potential impact on how we work is enormous. The change will affect not only business models and strategic direction; it is also about talent. Technology is redefining the skills workers need at every level and in every sector.

The skills that organisations will need tomorrow are increasingly hard to predict. As new technology continues to disrupt business models, organisations might find themselves with skills gaps that badly constrain their performance and limit their ability to adapt to the new digital era. 81% of senior executives believe that AI and other tech disruptions will force organisations to radically rethink skills and resources across large areas of the workforce. More concerning, 78% say that their organisation can’t train employees fast enough to keep up with technology developments in the next three years.

Those findings come from a global survey of 715 senior executives we commissioned in November and December 2023, including 680 from Forbes Global 2000 companies and 35 from public sector organisations. Our research partner, FT Longitude, also interviewed senior business leaders and global experts in talent planning and the future of the workplace to hear their perspectives on the new world of work.

Agility is key

Senior executives say that digital transformation and workers’ desire for more flexible working practices will be the biggest challenges for talent planning over the next two years. But our research shows that they’re grappling with other issues, too: the scarcity of talent in the market, the so-called Great Resignation, talent migration and remote working, and workers’ increasing willingness to move roles.

Faced with all these challenges, 92% of senior executives say they’ll need a more flexible workforce in the next two years. Our survey shows how organisations adjust their talent strategies to become more agile. The most popular tactic is sectoral talent pools. These lists of engaged candidates with relevant experience and skills might include previous contingent workers, former permanent employees, freelancers, retirees and even previous applicants.

Organisations are becoming more porous, with people moving in and out over time. It benefits both sides: employers can bring in relevant skills and knowledge when they need them, and the workers can move between different organisations, learning as they go.

The rise of the agency worker

Another increasingly attractive solution to increase the flexibility of the workforce is to turn to agency workers. 88% of organisations we surveyed plan to increase the employment of agency workers. The benefits are multiple. Top of the list is increasing their workforce agility and bridging unexpected resourcing gaps — vital benefits when businesses have to change direction at speed.

However, our survey shows that these workers aren’t seen as just an extra pair of hands. Other key benefits of using agencies include the ability to access digital skills that are difficult to hire on a permanent basis, and access to higher-calibre candidates – as well as helping to prepare for planned changes in resource requirements at particular times of year.

Contingent or agency workers also bring new skills and knowledge to an organisation. 79% of senior executives say employing agency workers with knowledge of a new technology is an effective way to spread understanding to permanent employees.

The Work We Want

The unfolding digital and AI revolution has ripped up the talent strategy rulebooks. Talent agility is now essential: it allows organisations to adapt to the new world and redeploy workers into the roles of the future. Moreover, many workers expect and welcome flexibility, helping them meet their lifestyle requirements and desire for work-life balance.

In that context, how do we create a world of work that meets those needs? Within the HR services industry, we’re convinced that work remains an essential part of people’s lives. In this era of enormous change there is an opportunity — and an imperative — to redefine what that means. It’s time to create the work we want. Join the conversation!


Photo of Priscilla Du Preez ???????? in Unsplash