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Great Resignation: ‘Talent is really in control,’ CEO says

RGP CEO Kate Duchene joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how the power is in employees' hands amid a labor shortage and how Amazon is planning on recruiting high schoolers for warehouse jobs.

Video Transcript

- We've all heard about the Great Resignation. 4.3 million people, in fact, quit their jobs in the month of February alone. Where are all these workers going, though? Research actually shows that more than 20% of American workers took a new job in the last year.

Many are changing fields entirely from blue-collar manufacturing type jobs to the tech world, believe it or not. Let's talk about this trend with the CEO of global consulting firm RGP, Kate Duchene. Kate, nice to see you. So this is interesting, to see this dramatic a shift. What do you think is the primary driver of it? And what's enabling workers to make that change?

KATE DUCHENE: Well, I think the word of the day is "creativity" in the labor markets and the fact that talent really is in control and choosing to work differently. So instead of pursuing more traditional paths, there's a lot of creativity, innovation, that's happening on both sides, both with what talent wants and what companies need. It's a very frothy marketplace, but one that's exciting for many of us to see new opportunities arise and to really better match opportunity to what talent wants.

- You talk about work differently, but what are businesses doing that is showing they're hiring differently? Are their requirements dramatically different?

KATE DUCHENE: Well, I think the story that you were just talking about, which is blue-collar jobs moving into tech-- I think that that's a fantastic opportunity and speaks to the idea of upskilling and reskilling and the fact that our traditional paradigm of everyone needs a degree and you have a particular career progression are being challenged in today's market. Maybe you don't need a college degree. Maybe you can progress in different ways.

And talent looking at building careers through portfolios of experience-- I mean, we are a knowledge worker business. We are a global consulting firm that focuses on project execution. And one of the trends we see in our client base is that companies are much more open today to remote work, hybrid work, and a category we call "borderless."

When we were operating in our businesses five years ago, everyone thought your project manager needed to sit in the office or the cubicle next to you. And what COVID has accelerated is the fact that that's not the case-- that through technology and other collaboration tools, you can look for talent that best matches your project need no matter where they exist in the world. And so we've seen a lot of creativity in when work gets done, where it gets done, and by whom it gets done.

- I'm just following up here on the project economy that you're discussing. Are we talking about more part-time and contract hires rather than full-time employees? Is that a shift you're seeing?

KATE DUCHENE: I think that's a real shift that we're seeing coming out of the pandemic. We call it the rise of the project economy, meaning more and more business activity and sustainable business activity will be done in a project basis. And clients increasingly are understanding that not all of their talent needs to be owned full-time, but there are reasons to rent talent.

So as you think about what are the transformation agendas of our clients-- and in this competitive landscape, those transformation agendas are active, full of projects, and changing all the time. So exactly the subject matter talent that you need changes, too. And that might be fractional support. It might mean full-time support. But it doesn't mean full-time in the traditional employment paradigm. It means engaging with talent on a full-time basis for a project period and then changing out what talent you need for the next project because chances are it will probably be very different.

- That foretells a dramatic shift in our workforce eventually down the road. Back to that trend of blue-collar workers going into the tech industry-- it says a lot about the skills gap we're seeing today. How are businesses filling that? And do we need a change in immigration, frankly?

KATE DUCHENE: Well, we do, but a lot of different considerations are putting pressure on the war for talent. It's not just immigration policy. It's retirement trends and also challenges with respect to upskilling or skills acquisition.

And so what is happening in the marketplace is employers are having to get very creative and try and solve these talent gaps in new ways and looking at populations of talent that maybe they would never have considered before. But with some investment around upskilling or mentorship, for example, that talent can deliver what they need. I mean, I saw a recent article, too, about Amazon hiring high schoolers to work in warehouse environments. They probably didn't think about that talent strategy five years ago or even two years ago.

But with need comes ingenuity. And we're seeing that happen in the marketplace. The other trend that we're seeing is that talent's in control. And so talent has choices.

And I think purpose matters more in that decision making on the talent side-- flexibility, transparency, all of those influences. Diversity is a big conversation that we're having with clients in today's environment. And increasing your diversity for many companies means getting more creative-- that what you did in the past isn't working to create the outcomes you want for the future.

- Creativity and flexibility needed by all of today's employers. Kate Duchene is the CEO of global consulting firm-- excuse me-- RGP. Nice to see you, Kate. Thank you.