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Flexibility will be a key skill in employment market of tomorrow

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Flexibility will be key in the future jobs market.

Flexibility will be key in the future jobs market.

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RISING joblessness was not the only major employment trend to impact the Irish workforce over the past five years. There were subtler but equally dramatic alterations to how we work – an increasing number of part-time roles, temporary contracts, job-sharing and agency workers among them.

By 2018 these changes will be even more acute, a new report from talent management specialist Right Management has found, irrevocably altering how we do our jobs.

A key finding of the report, which questioned 350 HR and line managers and companies with 500 or more staff, was that flexible contracts will dominate the employment landscape within just five years. Three-fifths of the HR decision makers surveyed expect that workers will be either on temporary contracts or working flexibly as contractors or freelancers by 2018.

This means that employees' ability to deal with change will become a major factor in defining their employability.

In five years' time, 91pc of HR bosses think people will be recruited on their resilience in the face of uncertainty.

"It's not high on the agenda so far, but that's changing very quickly," said Ian Symes, general manager of Right Management.

"Three years ago I'd have put it at 10th to 15th place on the agenda but now it's probably in the top five."

There's no specific way of measuring this characteristic across all businesses, he concedes – but a good indicator is how workers deal with uncertainty.

"If people are able to feel comfortable when they don't know exactly what kind of challenge they face, have lots of different people they answer to asking them to do lots of different things and they are okay with that and go home not feeling stressed, then that's a good pointer," he says.

People in their 30s are best equipped to deal with the flux resulting from the changing business environment, according to the report, with this capacity diminishing with age.

Surprisingly, those in their 20s were seen as having only a quarter of the ability to cope than people a decade older do.

"People in their 30s are typically nesting and settling, having a family," says Mr Symes. "Their lives are in turmoil anyway, so more of that turmoil and ambiguity is just something they see as something to deal with.

"But in your 20s you have come through fairly structured life scenarios; probably lived at home with your parents, gone through institutions in terms of education, so therefore you are actually quite used to things being fairly ordered."

Workers below the age of 30 are also unlikely to have much experience of working life before the crisis turned the world upside down, meaning they are still settling into employment; while those with more experience know better times are ahead.

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