Changing Demographics and Work: Reimaging Talent Development and Retention

Changing Demographics and Work: Reimaging Talent Development and Retention Main Photo

30 Nov 2021


Workforce, News

Changing Demographics and Work: Reimaging Talent Development and Retention

By Andrea Ferstan, Vice President of Systems Innovation, Center for Economic Inclusion

Employers across sectors are regularly lamenting about the difficulties of finding and retaining talent. The reverberations of the Covid-19 pandemic and the accelerated move towards automation and digitalization are projected to “…eliminate about 85 million jobs in the next five years—potentially displacing up to half of the United States workforce with no clear path for them to connect to the new jobs likely to be created by these technological changes.” [1] Those most impacted by this convergence have been and will be women, Indigenous, and Black Minnesotans.

So how can businesses adapt and respond to these demographic and industry changes to ensure a competitive advantage by leveraging the diverse talent in our region? New research from APM Research Labs notes that “…four-fifths of BIPOC Minnesotans believe employment discrimination is a regular problem for their racial or ethnic group in Minnesota.”

Our demographics are rapidly shifting, yet the culture, policies and practices within many businesses continues to exclude and limit advancement of Black and Brown people. While the solutions are multi-faceted, below are a few strategies businesses can implement to maximize these changes for growth.

New Approaches Yield Big Results

Back in September 2019, Accenture noted the need for what they referred to as “new skilling” rather than “reskilling” because skill-building is additive. They also noted the need for experiential training where people continue to earn while they learn and the need to move from degree-based hiring to hiring based on performance and potential. Paid on-the-job training provides a viable alternative to inflated education requirements that disproportionately bar people of color from accessing good jobs.[2] Apprenticeships, paid internships, and pre-apprenticeships can be a powerful tool for lowering barriers to entry associated with other formal training and education programs.

New research from the Project on Workforce at Harvard aligns with this shift in changing training approaches, noting that the job categories growing fastest in the United States over the last thirty years utilize high technical and social tasks. Studies show that on-the-job and work-based experiences are critical for developing social skills. As technology continues to displace repeatable and automatable technical tasks in jobs, educational interventions must increasingly prioritize supporting learners in honing social skills for work contexts. Research has shown that future jobs, especially those with good wages, will require a combination of foundational, transferable soft skills, and job-specific skills.

The new report from McKinsey & Company “Toward an equitable economic recovery in Minneapolis–St. Paul,” illustrates that “…by closing long-standing racial equity gaps and preparing people of color for the future of work, the region can put itself on track to recover both equitably and more quickly.”[3]

This report notes that business can play a critical role today when many people, particularly from Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian communities, are grappling with both the health and economics of caring for young children and/or returning to work, in helping to remove barriers to training so employees can take advantage of reskilling and upskilling opportunities—for example, provide free or subsidized childcare, transportation, or compensation for training hours.  

As the demographics of both current and future employees and customers change, businesses must build new community partnerships and models for both recruiting and developing a diverse workforce with the skills necessary for today’s changing economy. This will require authentic, trusted relationships with Black and Brown communities and organizations to support workplace inclusion, good jobs for Indigenous people and people of color, and inclusive economic growth and prosperity for the region.

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About the Center for Economic Inclusion

The Center for Economic Inclusion is committed to closing racial employment, income, and wealth gaps, and building racially inclusive and equitable regional economies. Founded in 2017, the Center is the nation’s first Black woman-owned and led organization dedicated exclusively to strengthening public- and private-sector civic infrastructures and collective capacity to disrupt systems and influence market forces while advancing an inclusive economy. Through the Center’s Employer Inclusivity and Inclusive Growth Consulting Services, the Center partners with employers, like Ramsey County, who also seek to increase competitiveness and profitability by centering racial equity, inclusion, and belonging. Click here to learn more.


[1] Abbie Langston, Justin Scoggins, Matthew Walsh, “RACE AND THE WORK OF THE FUTURE: ADVANCING WORKFORCE EQUITY IN THE UNITED STATES”, November 12,2020

[2] Abbie Langston, Justin Scoggins, Matthew Walsh, “RACE AND THE WORK OF THE FUTURE: ADVANCING WORKFORCE EQUITY IN THE UNITED STATES”, November 12,2020

[3] Mackenzie Cramblit, Kweilin Ellingrud , Audrey Lucas , and Caitlin Van Kooten, McKinsey & Company, “Toward An Equitable Economic Recovery In Minneapolis-St-Paul”, Nov. 9, 2021