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Why Skills, Not College Degrees, Will Drive the Post-Pandemic Labour Market

This article was written by Vickie An and first appeared in INC Magazine.



Peter Q. Blair is on the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he co-directs the Project on Workforce. He also serves as a faculty research fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research and the principal investigator of the Blair Economics Lab. In Inc.'s series on the future of business, he shared predictions about talent management. As told to Vickie An.

Now that the labor market has loosened, how can entrepreneurs retain the kind of talent they need to succeed?

Communicate clearly and transparently with the team. For booming entrepreneurs, whose short-run objective is worker recruitment, I prescribe a large dose of humility.


Start with the personal sacrifices you are willing to make for the well-being of the team.


A servant leader lays the foundation for the team to co-develop a plan of shared sacrifice that prioritises the well-being of the most vulnerable team members.


What qualities will be most valuable in the post-pandemic future when it comes to business leaders?


There are growing fears of a K-shaped recovery--one in which workers in high-wage jobs return to post-Covid growth in wages and employment while workers earning low wages experience declining economic prospects. Business leaders play a direct role in determining whether a post-Covid economy is a more equitable economy or one with even starker inequality, particularly along racial lines.


What's your prediction for the future of talent management?


The best businesses will hire on the basis of a worker's skill, not academic credentials. Given the rising cost of college and the worsening economic conditions because of Covid-19, paying for college imposes a significant financial burden on most families. As more workers opt for alternative forms of training, the future of talent management will crucially rely on identifying talented workers among the more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce who don't have a college degree.

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