The Great Resignation and Work-Based Learning

As part of this interview series, we discuss with our Board Member, Christophe Catoir, President, Adecco, his take on the Great Resignation and work-based learning (WBL).

“I see it as a responsibility to help companies recruit people based on true potential, motivation and cultural fit – then to continuously train them for the skills needed. We have seen apprenticeship becoming a clear game changer, not only for primary education but also to support professional transitions. Adecco has built first pilots here, both in terms of assessment and upskilling.”

In the context of the Future of Work, WBL including apprenticeships and internships can be a way to empower workers of all ages to acquire skills needed throughout the entire cycles of their careers. Set against the backdrop of the Great Resignation, with the highest leavers being mid-career employees , a wide array of WBL, including upskilling, reskilling and newskilling can adapt workforces to massive changes accumulated during the pandemic (also known as the Great Reset), and it can provide more security to workers navigating a transformed workplace. By leveraging training opportunities for professional development, the Great Resignation could ultimately transform to the Great Retention.

As part of this interview series on “The Great Resignation and Work-Based Learning to Initiate the Great Retention”, we are exploring with employers their training programs adapted to a post-pandemic context. At GAN Global, our membership base consists of companies considered as top employers because of training cultures ingrained throughout the entire learning cycles of employees.

In this article, we had the pleasure of meeting with our Board Member, Christophe Catoir, President, Adecco.

Can you tell us a bit more about your background please? What experiences in your life shaped your role within your company?

My name is Christophe Catoir and I am the President of Adecco, the largest business in The Adecco Group and one of the world’s leading workplace solution companies. I have spent all my career with Adecco – that’s 27 years so far. I joined Adecco in France as an intern and worked in many different roles in the country, then regionally and globally, with increasing responsibility. Since January 2021, I am leading our global Adecco business that is headquartered in Zurich.

I joined GAN Global as a Board member in April 2021, having previously founded the GAN in France and held their Presidency from 2017 to 2020.

What experiences in your life shaped your role within your company?

I see it as a true asset that I was able to get to know our business from the inside-out, starting quite young, and having had the opportunity to learn and grow with my roles. This has been instrumental in building my motivation and ability to evolve inside our group. From the first day, visiting our client and candidate-facing colleagues all over the country has helped me realize how dedicated engagement with people can make a difference for society, something that has helped shape the clear sense of purpose I wake up with every morning for twenty-seven years. With those first, deep impressions in mind, managing operations later was driven by the question of how to build the best environment for our colleagues – so they can engage, have their impact amplified, feel proud and lastly, improve the reputation of our industry.

The fact we were able to set up our school for apprenticeships in France and educating 8, 000 apprentices every year is a good example that we actively address societal needs.

What were the major disruptions affecting WBL in your company over the past 2 years? How did your company pivot to adapt?

Adecco is a people company that lives through human connections. For the way we interact with our teams and colleagues, our customers and candidates, proximity and the human touch is so important – at the same time, technology is needed as an enabler, especially around training and upskilling opportunities. Covid-19 just highlighted the need to have a healthy balance of both, the physical and the digital experience. We are all human beings! After a strong pivot on the digital side during the pandemic where everything had to be video and remote, we are encouraging our people to re-think balance, in working and learning. This is why we strongly support a hybrid working and also, learning approach at Adecco.

Do you see these pivots as a strategy towards long-term retention?

I believe it’s essential for businesses to adapt to the fundamental shifts that Covid has triggered with people: we’ve seen the great resignation, the great re-evaluation, the great reshuffle, the quiet quitting … research, including our own, shows clearly that people want to belong, people want to have purposeful work and see meaning in what they do. And if a company does not provide for that, employees are more ready to leave. At the same time, we go through major shifts in technology: just think of the skills needed for the green economy in sectors like automotive, energy, logistics, construction to name but a few.

Then we have the current shortages in occupations like healthcare or positions requiring STEM-skills. Covid was an important teacher that we need to watch out how socially and economically disrupting events or developments massively impact the future skills we need in our society. For organizations, this means a potential threat: do I have the workforce I need for sustainable growth – or even, to stay in business, in the future? What can I do to retain employees and help them grow in roles where different skillsets are needed? We don’t find the skilled workforce on the market today, that’s why work-based learning, training and inclusive behavior are key and need to be strongly in focus.

The Great Resignation has also been coined The Great Reshuffle due to disruptions at several levels of the workforce – new workplace models hastened during the pandemic, workers leaving, and new skills needed.  How can WBL be leveraged to fill in these gaps?

The labor and skills gap we need to close is not only a topic of the future – the gap is already here, and it’s a concern in many different sectors and occupations like healthcare or positions requiring STEM skills. The European Labour Authority’s recent Report on Labour Shortages and Surplus in Europe states that in 2022, a total of 28 occupations were classified as shortages – and we speak about 14% of the EU workforce here. Most employees in shortages occupations have a medium level of education – this is where WBL needs to play a more important role.

On this note, I see it as a responsibility to help companies recruit people based on true potential, motivation and cultural fit – then to continuously train them for the skills needed. We have seen apprenticeship becoming a clear game changer, not only for primary education but also to support professional transitions. Adecco has built first pilots here, both in terms of assessment and upskilling.

We have recently surveyed 30,000 workers across 25 countries on their opinions about the future of work, including their thoughts on training, upskilling and re-skilling. The results were interesting:

o Training ranked among the most important drivers of employee satisfaction, yet many people told us they weren’t satisfied with the level of training they’d received. In fact, 14% said that they’d had no training at all in their current roles.
o The research also showed that employees were less likely to upskill or re-skill independently if they hadn’t received training on the job.

What needs to change for other employers to be able to offer more WBL, including apprenticeships for attracting and retaining talent? How can a company become a learning center?

I think the most important change needs to be a shift in the way we think about WBL. Employers are as responsible for filling in skill gaps as employees – and companies should also encourage their employees to do regular trainings so they can stay up to date with changing skill requirements. One example I like to share is what we did with our Youth Employment Solutions (YES!) program which originated in Kentucky in 2016 to address youth unemployment rates. Adecco partnered with the state’s high schools to combine on-the-job learning with technical instruction in dedicated education facilities that helped close the skill gap. Employers benefitted from a clear roadmap and access to local talent, whilst high school graduates were able to build viable career paths and gain confidence.

This initiative has expanded to many more states, but it’s something that businesses can implement in their own context. Becoming a learning center is about investing for the long-term and diversifying the ways in which workplace education is delivered.

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the pandemic, massive job losses, and now The Great Resignation, what makes you optimistic about The Future of Work?

I am an optimist by nature – and I truly believe that the workplaces of the future will be better, because they will be more diverse and inclusive. The employee has a great say in this development, as he or she will be the one to choose the ideal job, not the employer anymore, given that talent is scarce. When people decide for jobs that provide them with flexibility and purpose, that allow for making an impact – this will in return have a positive impact on society. And such a development in the world of work can only be a good one!