Creating the Workplace of the Future by Focusing on People

The employees at an organization need to be the priority

An illustration of a person scanning other people with their left eye
The future of work is the future of people. Getty Images
Headshot of Linda Yaccarino

This year, at the World Economic Forum, one message was loud and clear: In order to futureproof our companies—and the economy—we must futureproof our people.

And the fact is, we have a lot of work to do. Right now, there are more than 7 million vacant jobs in the United States, but many of them can’t be filled because workers do not have the requisite skills. But I want to be clear: The problem isn’t a lack of talent; it’s that our labor market is still operating on a playbook written decades ago. It’s exceedingly difficult for Americans to get insight into which skills are in demand and training in those skills. And even with that training, too many workers are still overlooked just because they don’t have a four-year college degree.

On top of that, job readiness is an ever-moving target. By 2022, the core skills required to perform most roles will change by more than 40%. That means people will have to learn new skills several times over their careers just to keep up.

This raises two important questions. First, are companies overvaluing four-year degrees at the expense of tangible skills and real-world experience? And second, in an economy that is facing constant, unyielding disruption, how do we ensure more Americans have the tools they need to thrive in the years to come?

Every CEO and executive needs to look inward and build workplaces that ensure our employees, current and future, can always succeed amid rapid transformation.

Last week in Davos, I joined a gathering of 31 business leaders from across every industry organized by the White House—including IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell—to try and answer those questions. But we did more than have a conversation. We took action and created a cohesive plan to support the Ad Council’s upcoming Workforce Readiness Initiative, led by its CEO Lisa Sherman and developed in close association with Apple, IBM, SHRM and the White House’s American Workforce Policy Advisory Board.

In a moment when American jobs are rapidly changing, this groundbreaking national campaign will shine a light on how today’s students and workers can prepare themselves for tomorrow’s jobs. The Workforce Readiness Initiative is designed to share vital information Americans need to find jobs that match their skill set. It will also provide guides to help people find additional training or up-skilling to apply to new positions. And while this program will no doubt help all Americans looking for new opportunities, they will, in particular, have incredible long-term benefits for the unemployed, women and communities of color.

NBCUniversal is proud to provide media support to help this initiative reach Americans coast to coast and give them the tools to succeed for decades to come.

Of course, this campaign is just one piece of the larger puzzle. Every CEO and executive needs to look inward and build workplaces that ensure our employees, current and future, can always succeed amid rapid transformation.

That’s why NBCUniversal is investing in programs that help employees stay ahead of the curve, including doubling down on training and professional development, establishing simple and effective hiring practices, scaling programs to bring people back into the workplace and implementing more flexible work schedules and policies.

The future of work is the future of people. From broad national campaigns to on-the-ground changes, our investment in people will certainly pay off. In the end, everyone wins.

@lindayacc Linda Yaccarino is chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships for NBCUniversal. She is also a member of the Adweek Advisory Board. Linda Yaccarino is also the chairman of the World Economic Forum’s taskforce on the future of work and the vice chairman of The Advertising Council.