The war for talent and cities


In the future world of work organisations and cities will be affected by a number of megatrends

Cities will have to compete for the best talent in the future world of work, according to Carolyn Moore, director of people and organisational development at Future Cities Catapult.

Speaking at the Public Services People Managers Association (PPMA) annual conference in Gateshead, Moore explained that “it is no longer just companies competing for talent but also cities”.

“When we look at the megatrends affecting the future world of work – the labour shortages, the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), and the gig economy – these will all influence and create a need for cities to attract and retain talent,” she said.

“The labour shortage issue is a bit of a misnomer as it won’t be the case in all areas of the labour market, but because of the ageing population – especially within public sector employment – organisations will need to engage with different employees,” she said.

“It’s also important for placemaking and drawing talent into an area.”

Digitalisation and AI will alleviate some of these labour shortages, Moore explained, as low-skilled, administrative jobs are likely to be automated. But technology will also mean some jobs will become more complex and “the evolution of jobs and the skills needed to support them will accelerate”.

Technology will increasingly free up employees to work remotely, Moore continued, so people will choose where they want to live rather than where they want to work. This will support the “devolution of the workplace” and gig economy trend, which Moore said “will only continue to grow, so there is a need to find better ways to engage with it”.

These megatrends “will represent the biggest challenge to the HR profession” and, “in complex organisations they present a unique set of both challenges and opportunities”, she stated.

“And looking at these influences, it is clear that they are also going to present challenges for cities trying to staff their local economy.”

Moore cited the example of US cities bidding to become the home of Amazon’s new $5 billion, 50,000-employee facility. Amazon has graded cities based on criteria including the ability to attract and retain strong talent and creative thinking.

But Moore warned that “unless the talent is available in these locations, attracting businesses to areas will be unsustainable”.

Also speaking at the PPMA conference, Trafford Council’s chief executive Theresa Grant said that the council has taken steps to integrate public sector teams and introduce a local industrial strategy to build the skills base in the local area.

“A key part of this involves public sector organisations and private sector businesses forming partnerships with each other,” she said.

Moore also told the audience that there are three key competencies needed to thrive in the future workplace: innovation and experimentation, adaptability, and collaboration.

However, she explained that “the good news is that most employees and organisations already have these skills and use them every day”.

For Grant, HR should “be a visionary”, “know the skills and talent available”, “understand the main challenges” and “be creative and innovative” to thrive in such changing times.