The struggles to contain COVID-19 have had a weighty impact on industries and workers worldwide. The pandemic experience has accelerated companies’ digital transformation. Building on Rawls’ development ethics in his “Theory of Justice”, Sen proposes a capabilities approach to development that hinges on social arrangements that are valued primarily around the extent to which citizens are free to promote as well as achieve functions they value.
Sen’s slant has two core normative claims. First, the supposition that freedom to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance. And second, that freedom to achieve well-being must be understood in terms of people’s capabilities and functionings. That is, development must offer faithful occasions for people to do and be what they value. This distinguishes it from utilitarianism or resourcism, where the emphasis is on idiosyncratic well-being or the availability of means to the good life, in that order.
In short, a person’s capability to live a good life is defined by the set of valuable “beings and doings” to which they have genuine access. Here, “poverty” is understood as a deprivation of the capability to live a good life, and “development” is understood as the blossoming of capabilities during a double disruption that ripples into the green and digital twin transitions. This outlook presents a unique basis for normative speculating, such as a capability theory of justice that makes unambiguous a “metric” that specifies which capabilities are prized and a “rule” that elucidates how capabilities are to be distributed.
Beginning from the necessity for human dignity, Martha Nussbaum has offered the most staggering description of such a capability theory of justice, which has fashioned a far-reaching catalogue of core capabilities to be included in national constitutions with guarantees for all up to defined thresholds. Covid-19 has underscored the need to future-proof citizens’ ability to work, and that workers will require to hone new capabilities — but which ones? Understanding which jobs will be lost, and which will be created, as automation and AI tinker with the future of work, allows governments to infer the talents and high-level skills that will become increasingly important in a capabilities approach to development.
Governments everywhere are passionate about helping their citizens develop new skills, but it is hard to devise curricula around skills that are not yet well defined. McKinsey has identified four broad skill categories—cognitive, digital, interpersonal, and self-leadership under which they have distilled thirteen separate skill groups belonging to those categories. “Mental Flexibility and Planning” and “Ways of Working” are two skill groups that belong to the Cognitive category, while “Mobilizing Systems” and “Teamwork Effectiveness” belong to the Interpersonal category. The resulting taxonomy consists of 56 Distinct Elements of Talent (DELTAs) that fall within these skills groups, which are a distinct brew of capabilities and attitudes. “Breaking orthodoxies” and “Coping with uncertainty” are examples of attitudes.
To respond to present workforce trends—companies have already started to design and implement strategic approaches to workforce planning. They first identify the capabilities they need to nurture, along with the talent attraction alternatives available. Departments then conduct an iterative set of workshops designed to: 1) identify external trends and internal factors impacting the workforce; 2) list key capabilities or tasks that are either increasing or diminishing in prominence; 3) map those capabilities to roles for prioritization and; 4) design tactics to close capabilities gaps using automation, digitalization, short-term capabilities exchanges, and internal talent development. Workshop outputs are used to: 1) formulate skill and role-gap mitigation strategies; 2) evaluate role disruption across the company; 3) calculate upskilling costs and; 4) design a workforce impact assessment strategy that allows the organization to develop an action-oriented approach to identify and close capability gaps.
Strategic workforce planning unmasks talent gaps across the organization. This in turn helps to shape new strategic priorities. Entire industries have repositioned themselves in a highly digital, data-driven world where jobs are searching for capabilities dedicated to a defined task. Beyond that engagement, companies expect the skill to roam freely once the job is done. The embrace is tight — but tentative. Lifelong unions with a single employer are pre-pandemic. Capability-specific hiring to drive innovation without over-committing resources to health insurance and pensions is also trending. Unlimited Vacation Policies in the AI Age are a defined strategy to attract capability.
Careers in Post-Corona require commitment to lifelong learning, adaptability, and flexibility. Data-driven decision-making is driving investment in AI, analytics, and automation to enable companies to find their place in Post-Corona. AI and automation have opened the shutters to incredible opportunities for growth and innovation in platform markets—and have equally created new challenges and complexities for workers and employers.
AI is at the forefront of a wave of technology-driven transitions. It is altering global competitiveness, rebuilding supply chains to be resilient, and rewriting job descriptions while it simultaneously propels the upskilling imperative for a future-ready workforce. The obverse of freedom to achieve well-being is a deprivation of capability that propels a poverty of capabilities. Epistemic poverty is an unfreedom that is not measured using GDP. Rather, it is gauged using IP and other barometers of a new cognitive and inclusive capitalism.