How We Can Collaborate to Empower the Future Workforce

The COVID-19 pandemic has damaged local economies and led to high unemployment. We believe there is an innovative solution to help address these challenges: the creation of skills-based talent marketplaces.

The world of work has been undergoing change for years, driven by technological, economical, and societal factors. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated and intensified those changes. 

We see it in the way jobs are changing. In industries most impacted by the pandemic—including healthcare, hospitality, retail, transportation, entertainment, and tourism—jobs must adapt to shifting business models. Affected workers are having to gain different skills and must also have a way to show how their existing skills are valuable in new roles. And with more people working remotely, the need for digital skills has intensified for all types of jobs.

At the same time, the pandemic has dramatically altered our economy, resulting in high unemployment and making it difficult for an increasing number of people and families just to make ends meet. 

There are many reasons why we’re so focused on the future of work, and we believe there’s never been a more important time than now to be talking about it. Since day one at Workday, our specialty has been building technology that puts people first. Helping people work most effectively, sharing the skills they need in order to grow, and making opportunities available to people—all people—are deeply ingrained in everything we do.

With many of the largest companies in the world as our customers, we feel enormous responsibility for the role we play in helping shape the future of work. Without effective, immediate action by both businesses and governments, we see a future that puts many people at risk of falling ever further behind. And based on conversations we’ve had with several governors, it’s clear they feel a responsibility to help get people back to work, and that they also realize that high unemployment negatively impacts their states’ financial stability in many ways.

Connecting People With Employers

We believe there is an innovative solution to help address these challenges: the creation of skills-based talent marketplaces. If we know the skills of individuals in a community, and what employers are looking for, why not create marketplaces where we can leverage these insights and help people get back to work? And, in such a marketplace, those who need reskilling or upskilling could identify and access the training they need.

Unfortunately, employment markets today fall short of this ideal. While numerous job boards seek to match workers with opportunities, too often the job descriptions focus on pedigree, such as degrees earned, rather than the skills needed for the role. This excludes from the job market those—in many cases women and people of color—who have the skills required but attained them through work or related experiences rather than secondary education. 

To create a true talent marketplace, as a society we need to shift to skills-based employment practices. Machine learning (ML), a form of artificial intelligence, plays a particularly powerful role here, as ML can identify thousands of skills derived from millions of data points, and show relationships among those skills. In fact, the nonprofit organization Opportunity@Work is going to leverage ML-powered technologies to match workers who don’t have four-year degrees but are what Opportunity@Work calls “STARs”—skilled through alternative routes—with employers who are in need of their skills, through a partnership with Workday.

Without effective, immediate action by both businesses and governments, we see a future that puts many people at risk of falling ever further behind.

Three Critical Steps

In order to create the skills-based marketplaces employers and workers need, we must combine open skills data sets with real-world information. To do that, all of us need to work together to collect and share data on skills needed for the jobs of today and in the future. Three steps are critical:

  • Identifying the skills employers need. Through partnerships with their largest employers, states could identify the skills needed for their economies. They could then use that information to drive worker training programs, utilizing increasingly sophisticated online learning platforms. 

  • Identifying existing skills in the community. States could collect skills information, submitted voluntarily from those filing for unemployment, and use that information to attract employers looking for particular skill pools.

  • Enhancing public-private sharing of skills data. Companies should commit to sharing real-time jobs and skills data on open platforms for shared analysis, with governments helping to bring industries together via voluntary data reporting systems.

In addition to existing worker training programs, we believe governments should support employer-provided training that helps workers advance their careers and stay ahead of technological change. 

Working together, we can solve these challenges. We can identify the skills individuals have and provide the training they need to improve their skills and themselves. We can help employers find people with the skills they need. And for towns, cities, and states, we can do our part to create thriving economies with opportunities for all.

This article, co-authored by David Somers, general manager for talent optimization at Workday, and Aneel Bhusri, co-founder and co-CEO of Workday, originally appeared at

More Reading