Mr. Ashford is President of Holland America, an award-winning cruise line with a fleet of 15 premium vessels carrying approximately 850,000 guests annually to all seven of the globe’s continents. The Holland America line is a division of Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise ship enterprise. Ashford is an executive on a meteoric rise, who has become an expert on talent. Prior to joining Holland America, he served as Coca-Cola’s Group Director of Human Resources for Eurasia and Africa, Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer for Marsh & McLennan Cos., and President of Mercer consulting’s Talent Business Segment. The following is an excerpt from Ashford’s book expressing the urgent need to close the talent gap by embracing what he calls a “new human ecosystem.”
“Talentism” is a term I first heard used by Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic forum; it refers to the notion that human capital fundamentally drives growth for both business and societies. The old model of capitalism, in which capital was the most valued and necessary resource for businesses, is being replaced with talentism, with talent being the critical factor driving growth for both business and societies.
In the past, the most critical resource for businesses was financial capital. An entrepreneur could not start a factory or a steel mill without large amounts of capital to buy the equipment and pay for the facility. But in today’s economy, human capital — not equipment or the money to buy it — is the critical resource. Talentism therefore can be viewed as supplanting capitalism. People and the skills that they bring are the critical resources, and critical talent is getting harder and harder to come by.
Today, more than one-third of employers worldwide cannot fill all available jobs. Yet, an estimated 202 million eligible workers are unemployed across the globe. Worldwide, the number of unemployed people rose by 5 million in 2013 to 202 million and is expected to rise again in 2014; in fact, the International Labour Organization predicts that unemployment will worsen, with 215 million jobless by 2018. The global unemployment ratio of youth to adults continues to increase: The jobless rate for 15- to 24-year-olds reached 13.1% (or 74.5 million people) in 2013, nearly three times the adult rate. If we continue under current models, changing population dynamics and increased resource scarcity will only make this situation worse. Globally, by 2025, the workforce will have as many as 95 million more low-skill workers than employers need and up to 40 million fewer workers with higher education than employers need.
So the problem is not a lack of people who could, theoretically, be hired but rather the disconnect between the skills people have and the skills employers need. Research has identified four underlying issues causing this gap:
- Widespread unemployability exists because of the lack of basic employment skills, particularly among people in underprivileged communities. This has exceedingly negative consequences for the individuals shut out of the labor market, the societies in which large groups of people lack economic opportunities, and the businesses that need skilled people to drive growth.
- Critical skills gaps exist between what employees possess and what businesses need. Because of these gaps, businesses cannot find the talent they need where they need it and individuals may find themselves ill-equipped for the jobs of the future.
- Information gaps make it difficult for labor markets to match workers to jobs effectively. Workers lack information about current job openings or future skill needs, while employers seeking talent cannot perfectly observe the actual capabilities of prospective employees.
- Public and private constraints on mobility impede the ability of markets to balance supply and demand by adjusting wages or the number of workers. These include common government interventions, such as imposing minimum wage laws and visa restrictions, and private ones, such as imposing union rules or professional credentialing restrictions.
Looking at the statistics, the prognosis seems grim. However, I believe that solutions are at hand and continue developing day by day to help all of us — business leaders, government officials, and individuals — bridge this gap. This is where the concept of unlocking the power of the new human ecosystem comes in.
Recently, scholars have used the term “human ecosystem” to describe the ways that various communities function, taking into account sociopolitical structures, psychological factors, and even biological/ecological factors. This ecosystem holds a number of potential barriers to success, for both individuals and organizations, but also great opportunities through a worldwide network that has few limits.
To purchase a copy of “Talentism”, click here.