Healthier world economy sharpens focus on reskilling for future

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ISheila Penrose arrived in Davos only 36 hours ago and hit the snowy ground “running.” I spoke on panels about governance for investors and corporate governance, met with the fellow corporate chairmen, and co-chaired the meeting of the World Economic Forum’s initiative on education, gender and work (in which JLL is involved).  In between, I met with several clients and attended half a dozen corporate events – including JLL’s thought-provoking discussion of the Future of Workplace.

My overall impression?  What a difference a year makes!  This time last year there was real concern about a worldwide slowdown after a long recovery, anticipation of central bank tightening and significant political uncertainty. A year later, political uncertainty remains but we are in a broader, stronger and healthier world economy – healthier because growth is being led by trade and investment, not just consumption. And the global financial system is stable.

But while there is growth everywhere, it is not for all.  We operate in more dynamic, volatile markets. We must transition to relevant skills for the future, while retaining talent.  And for many, real wages have not risen in years. Against this backdrop, the conversation about job displacement and reskilling requirements has become more positive, with concern about the loss of employment as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (a concept introduced by World Economic Forum) balanced by more focus on practical steps, such as specific pathways to jobs of the future… with companies playing a central role.

On the investor front, human capital and climate risk are being elevated in the conversation – at least by long-term investors and index funds – alongside the perennial priorities of financial performance, strategy and governance.  We have yet to see if and how this gets incorporated in investment decisions but I detect a shift: how much money a company makes and how it makes it.

Attending Davos is a privilege.  It’s a feast of perspectives, business opportunities and networking.