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CEO Dialogue Series


Bridging the generation gap, and why you’re never too old to learn

7 December 2021 in CEO Dialogue Series

Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group, and his young disciple Jordan Topoleski explain to Jean-François Manzoni the vital importance of upskilling in the post-pandemic world....

 As one of the largest providers of talent services on the planet, the Adecco Group has had front row seats to the unprecedented disruption inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy and the way organizations have shifted to survive. 

From the sudden switch to remote working and the near collapse of supply chains to the recruitment needs of the recovery and the soul-searching of workers, CEO Alain Dehaze and his team have had to weather the storm, while also persevering with the necessary transformation of one of the incumbents of the talent industry.  

For Dehaze, while COVID-19 itself posed some exacting questions, it is the resulting amplification of trends that were already writing the future, such as technological innovation, increased uncertainty, the destruction of traditional jobs and the skills crisis that pose the biggest challenges. 

“The big difference is the acceleration of megatrends that COVID-19 brought with it – probably about three to five years in one,” Dehaze told IMD President Jean-François Manzoni during a CEO Dialogue at IMD’s campus in Lausanne. The CEO and the President were joined by 22-year-old American Jordan Topoleski, the global winner of the Adecco Group’s annual CEO for One Month program, who offered insights on the next generation of leadership.   

You have to prove by your values and actions that you merit this job of CEO […] You need to lead, not by power or fear, but by inspiration, conviction, motivation and by engaging the people around you
- Alain Dehaze

“The challenge for companies and individuals, but also governments and countries, is to make sure that the destruction or displacement and creation of jobs is, at least, occurring at the same pace, so that you don’t have people left behind,” he said, noting that, while more than 80 million jobs would be displaced by technology by 2025, more than 90 million jobs would be created. 

This careful management of the transition requires all stakeholders, including government, business and individuals, to take responsibility. 

“The solution is tripartite,” he said. “Not only one stakeholder has to solve this. There are three key stakeholders: the individual, the business and the government. First, the individual, depending on where you live, you have different perceptions about your accountability and responsibility about your upskilling and reskilling.” 

“If you don’t do anything, after 10 years, you are obsolete on the skills side,” he said, citing research that estimates that 40% of the average worker’s workplace-relevant skill set becomes redundant every three years. “It’s very important that you take that into account and reskill yourself.”  

Second, for companies to innovate and remain competitive, Dehaze said talent was crucial. In a global skills drought, that means looking within.  

“You must make sure you have talent, so you need to invest in your workforce,” he said. “You are in charge of the employability of your people. It’s important that you give them the opportunity to acquire skills that will be needed in the marketplace.”  

And third, governments must do more to invest in frameworks that create a “fluid marketplace”, for example by incentivizing lifelong training. 

“They are not doing enough,” he warned, pointing to European governments. “Individuals are not doing enough, business is not doing enough. The vast majority of companies don’t have a clear plan regarding the skills needed on a horizon of 24 to 36 months.” 

“The vast majority of governments have no real plan or framework in place to really mobilize business and individuals to upskill and reskill themselves in order to become more competitive,” he explained. 

Dehaze did however point to positive examples in France, such as the creation of individual training accounts and a regulatory facility to amortize, or gradually write off, corporate investment in training. He also praised recent German efforts to support large-scale workforce transformations, for example, in shifting to more sustainable technologies in the nation’s critical automotive industry.  

“It is important, if we want countries to stay attractive for business, because business is movable and can go where the talent is,” he said.  

Dehaze CEO dialogue
“The challenge for companies and individuals, but also governments and countries, is to make sure that the destruction or displacement and creation of jobs is, at least, occurring at the same pace, so that you don’t have people left behind”
- Alain Dehaze

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