‘GPS for Careers’: New Tech Platforms Aid Transitioning Workers

By Dave Zielinski August 2, 2021
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colleagues discuss plans in office

​Fallout from the pandemic, the growing threat automation poses to many jobs and a need for reskilling are throwing employees' career plans into disarray. As workers strive to stay relevant and marketable, organizations find they need to be more proactive in helping workers cope with disruption and plot their next career steps.

One way employers are doing that is by using AI-based technology platforms that promise to serve as a "GPS for careers" by providing personalized assessments, labor market intelligence and human coaching. The platforms help workers who are seeking new positions, within or outside the company, make wise career choices.

"Employees now work in an environment of continuous change as technology, market pressures and systemic risk have the potential to upend their jobs and careers," said J.P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst for research and advisory firm Forrester. "This can be incredibly challenging to employees. Many struggle with what kind of reskilling to pursue and whether there will be a market for their old skills as well as their new skills."

Gownder said AI-based career exploration platforms match employees with reskilling opportunities that ideally can lead to new employment.

"It's always been challenging for both job candidates and potential employers to identify adjacent skills that lend themselves to hiring and upskilling," Gownder said. "With large data sets of skills ontologies, AI can help predict linkages between existing skills and new careers for which workers can be trained. These solutions hold the potential for a more empathetic approach to downsizing on one hand and a more strategic approach to reskilling on the other."

Assessing Marketable Skills, Automation Risks

One such new tool comes from Randstad Risesmart, the outplacement and career mobility provider in San Jose, Calif. Called BrightFit, the platform combines detailed labor market data with a personalized skills assessment to help people figure out the next steps in their careers.

"We want to provide more career guidance to people impacted by layoffs, automation or who are seeking career changes," said Dan Davenport, CEO of Randstad Risesmart. "BrightFit helps them understand what specific skills they need to acquire to become good candidates for new jobs, calculates the risk of automation replacing their current jobs and identifies what roles they can move into that have a strong market outlook in the years ahead."

Randstad claims the tool's algorithms analyze real-time market data from more than 40,000 sources and thousands of associated skills to create a "market score outlook" that guides workers toward in-demand roles in targeted labor markets, based on growth opportunities and automation risk.

By calculating the risk that their current jobs will be replaced by automation, BrightFit aims to help workers explore other roles that are a good fit for their existing skill sets and that may be more automation-proof in the near term.

"By understanding their existing skill sets and then adding some additional skills, people can realistically make shifts to different in-demand roles," Davenport said. "Accountants, for example, could use the analytical skills they already possess and add two or three new skills like use of data visualization tools or data warehousing knowledge to prepare for a move to a data analyst role."

Jeanne Meister, managing partner of Future Workplace, an HR advisory and membership firm in New York City, said organizations also are dealing with the challenge of the "great resignation," as studies show up to 40 percent of workers are considering leaving current jobs and more than one-third may opt not to stay with employers that require them to work onsite rather than remotely.

"This is a perfect storm for companies to become their employees' career growth partner, providing visibility into possible new full-time positions inside the organization and offering mentoring and stretch assignments so employees can expand the depth and breadth of their skills," Meister said.

Future Workplace's 2021 HR Sentiment Survey, conducted with 200 chief human resource officers, found that using technology platforms to assist with career pathing was one of HR leaders' five top strategic priorities for the year.

Support for Departing Employees

Some technology platforms go beyond helping employees who are seeking internal transitions or career shifts to offering more personalized assistance when they exit a company. When employees leave WSP, an engineering and design services company based in Montreal, they aren't left to their own devices to figure out their next career move. They can tap services and resources provided by Toronto-based FutureFit AI, a technology platform that WSP partners with that helps guide workers through a variety of career transitions.

WSP employees departing the company following layoffs or for other reasons receive their own budget from FutureFit AI to spend on support services to help ease those transitions. FutureFit AI believes aiding offboarding employees in this fashion demonstrates authentic interest in worker well-being, improves brand perception and also reduces litigation risk.

"We wanted to provide more innovative and personalized support to employees making external transitions from the company," said Jennifer Callicot, employee experience leader at WSP, in describing her partnership with FutureFit AI. "The platform drives better outcomes for employees by providing them with personalized career navigation and reskilling programs, while allowing our company to live out its values of supporting our people at every stage of the employee life cycle."

Taylor Stockton, chief operating officer for FutureFit AI, believes that during the pandemic, many companies became more attuned to the negative impact layoffs can have on both departing and existing workers. As a result, many sought to create more empathetic and personalized ways of dealing with exiting employees.

"We help companies reallocate [a] budget that's already been allocated to outplacement," Stockton said. "The idea is to provide employees who are transitioning externally with a 'GPS for their careers' to help understand what marketable skills they already possess, and what additional skills or credentials they could acquire to make them even more marketable in similar or related job roles based on trends in various labor markets."

Stockton said his company has analyzed millions of different career transitions and applied the findings to help employees understand what it takes to move into new jobs or make career shifts. FutureFit AI also analyzes data from two-dozen public and private data sources to help create real-time labor market profiles, he said.

"We can zoom into Miami, Toronto or London to determine where there are shortages of workers, what jobs are being hired for, what skills are being hired for, which employers are hiring and how all those factors are projected to change over time," Stockton said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.

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