A tense labour market: the health crisis does not explain everything, but rather simply accelerates a movement already under way
Published on: 30 11 2021
Well beyond the media coverage of teleworking, the entire labour market is currently undergoing spectacular changes, in the face of workers whose requirements have changed and a major lack of skills in certain professions. Faced with this reality, companies must therefore act to build the future. However, employment policies and social law must also evolve now.
Towards an individualisation of relations and working methods
This has been a well-worn topic of discussion for some years now: with the health crisis, teleworking has taken up as much media attention as the issues it raises for organisations. However, we must not forget a whole fringe of employees who do not wish to telework or to telework more, or who cannot do so: in a shop, in logistics or on an industrial production line. In reality, the challenge for organisations today is not so much teleworking per se as the individualisation of working methods and relationships: for if the link to the workplace is changing, so is the legal link to work, the temporal link to work and the link to hierarchy. Nowadays, obtaining the sacrosanct permanent contract is no longer necessarily a priority, while having a certain amount of freedom to organise our private and professional lives sometimes takes precedence over the question of the level of salary.
Faced with this fundamental trend, how can companies maintain a sense of community? How can we reconcile these two injunctions, which may seem contradictory, and yet! In terms of work organisation, of course, but also in terms of management, which must accentuate its “take care” dimension, in order to meet the relational needs expressed, at the same time as the individualisation of working conditions. In other words, how can we balance the two, especially in the (many) job sectors experiencing shortages.
Job sectors where there is a shortage of skills: adapt today, but above all plan for tomorrow
With the economic recovery, many job sectors are experiencing labour shortages. This is not only because of a lack of skills on the market, but also because of a profound change in the interplay between supply and demand. In actual fact, some employees (already in their positions) have simply adopted new habits during the health crisis and refuse to return to the office full-time or to the world as it was before. Many geographically distant candidates have the same requirements or prefer to work in freelance mode. On a day-to-day basis, management teams must therefore adapt, broaden their pool of potential candidates and support them, if necessary, in upgrading their skills in the company’s business lines. This is a definite investment, but it also ensures that the candidates match the qualifications sought.
However, this immediate reaction should not prevent companies from working over the longer term to attract future talent to their sectors: in this respect, companies can work more closely with primary and secondary schools and, more generally, with the national education system, to present job sectors and the corresponding training courses to pupils and, above all, to their parents. This is certainly a painstaking task, but it is essential to anticipate tomorrow’s needs.
A necessary evolution of employment policies and social law
Although abrupt, especially given the intensity of the health crisis, this major change in the labour market is not the first, and will probably not be the last. A context that generally leaves it up to companies to “make do”. And to launch their own initiatives while waiting for the public authorities to react. For many years now, the channelling of students towards the sectors or functions of the future (or towards those sectors which are known to be potentially short of skills in the more or less long term) has clearly been slow. With visible results in the medium and long term as far as initial training is concerned, employment policies must now measure the problems encountered, and immediately direct initial and continuing training towards those sectors most in demand, so as not to be left behind by international competition due to a lack of talent.
However, beyond skills, and faced with the new realities of the labour market and the new forms of carrying out one’s work, it is undoubtedly a more profound reform that awaits the legislator in the coming years. The permanent contract could, of course, remain the foundation of the labour market, but it is now becoming urgent to enable new forms of work to take their rightful place, albeit hampered by a legal context that is in no way adapted to the needs of the workforce and the companies of the 21st century.