The future of skills in Circular Economy
The Netherlands is aiming for a fully Circular Economy (CE) by 2050. That sounds like a major challenge, but it also brings a number of new opportunities. For example, the report of Circle Economy on “Jobs & Skills in the Circular Economy” takes a closer look at the jobs that the CE will create, the jobs that will change and those that will disappear in a so-called circular labor market. A fully circular economy concerns all companies and sectors in the Netherlands. Jobs will change in the specific CE sectors, but also in sectors where most companies and employers are still at the beginning of the transition to the CE. It requires a fundamental shift in the mindset and skills of the workforce. In fact, a successful transition to a sustainable, circular economy depends on the skills and competences that are available, but also the skills and competences that are required in a circular labor market.
The role of Human Resources in CE
Research by the Sustainability University, as previously published in the State of the Sustainability Profession 2020, has shown that sustainability and CE are not yet sufficiently integrated in the HR department of companies. That is a missed opportunity, especially as this department has many possibilities to contribute to the realisation of a circular business strategy. One could consider the role of HR in developing new circular skills and skills in the company by including this in recruitment and selection, job descriptions, training and development, assessment processes and personal goals of employees. In addition, HR can also include the more inspirational aspect of a circular strategy in leadership processes or core values, with the result that employees not only know how, but also want to act in a circular manner.
8 tips for HR to contribute to Circular Economy
For this reason, in cooperation with CIRCL , the Sustainability University provided an interactive workshop on the role of HR in accelerating towards an inclusive, circular economy. The workshop, led by Carola Wijdoogen, examined the question of how HR (professionals) in companies could realize the opportunities with regards to CE in practice. Based on the journey of the “circular employee”, namely intake, development and outflow, these are the most important tips of the participants to get started right away:
- Include the company’s circular ambitions in labor market communication and also make sure that it is correct. After a few months, ask new employees whether the “promise” has been kept. Also provide employment conditions that are in line with circular ambitions, for example in the field of mobility, and don’t forget the Christmas package.
- Include the required circular skills and competences, such as systems thinking, in recruitment and selection.
- Promote job satisfaction and content by linking personal work to the social purpose of the organization, for example by putting up the SDGs at the reception, organizing a team day to a circular company or including circular ambitions in annual goals.
- Strengthen team formation and collaboration, as collaboration (interpersonal skills) is key for CE. This can be done for instance by stimulating target setting across silos, stimulating external knowledge processes (in the industry or chain) and adjusting reward (bonus) structures to stimulate team formation and cooperation.
- Encourage leadership: as many CE projects are new, being allowed to make mistakes (safe environment), innovation and vulnerability are important aspects.
- Develop CE competencies of existing employees, while at the same time bringing focus by breaking down the circular strategy in smaller pieces and stimulating both (top-down and bottom-up) employees to implement circular changes.
- Take care of work-life balance and vitality: make sure to also protect the enthusiastic and idealistic employees that are important to realize the change, as they tend to cross their own boundaries. HR has the important signal function to determine how employees are doing.
- Often experienced employees can add a lot of value to young social entrepreneurs or circular startups (which are especially attractive to young people). Exchanging and matching these two groups can be valuable for both.
Tips or questions?
We would like to thank all HR professionals for participating online or at the location. Are you working in HR and do you have more tips to share with us? Or are you getting starting with these practical this right way? Let us know by sending us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org