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Talent development for the future: talk less, do more

Introducing: Natalija Counet, Challenge Lead Talent for the Future

Natalija recently started as ‘Challenge Lead Talent for the Future’. What are her drivers? And how does she give meaning to the ambitions of the Amsterdam Economic Board when it comes to the most adaptive labor market and talent development in the Amsterdam region? How do we ensure that people are motivated to develop for a lifetime and also want to do the jobs of the future?

What did you do before joining the Board?

My background is really diverse: creative industry, corporate consultancy and in recent years especially talent development. I have been working for years with issues of skills for the future and learning for tomorrow. My hobby is learning. I am what they call in English a habitual learner and am now working on my third post graduate education: psychodrama and group processes.

I am also writing a book about the 7 most important skills for the next 10 years. I believe that there are basic skills that determine the future. For example, how do you develop the ability to learn, grow successfully with your job and change careers?

We often talk about the gap between what skills people have and which ones are in demand. We forget the other gap: between the skills people have and the work they want to do. The question I often ask myself is: what if we will soon be successful in teaching everyone the right (digital) skills, but the available talent does not make sense to do the jobs that are available? Nurses, teachers and professionals are already an example of professions where people with the right background do not want to do the jobs. How do we ensure motivation to develop for a lifetime and to do the jobs of the future?

Why did you choose to work for the Board?

My motto is ‘the best way to predict the future is to invent it’. It is not about what future is likely, it is about what future is desirable. That is why I found working at the Board an interesting challenge. We start here with a goal of what we want to achieve and we will translate that step by step into what exactly needs to be done for that. That really appeals to me.

Finland has made an official estimate that one third of Finnish people need direct retraining and further training if they want to remain relevant in the labor market. If we translate this to the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, we are talking about more than half a million people. Highly and low-skilled, professionals, students and people who have been on unemployment benefits for a long time. And with very different skills and jobs. I see this as the concrete challenge that we need to tackle: can we offer half a million people in the Amsterdam region retraining, further training and appropriate education before 2025? What kind of infrastructure do we need for that? How can we translate our major ambitions into concrete action plans and collaborate more intelligently?

Where do you think we can make the greatest impact as a Board?

Many parties are engaged in talent development in different ways: local, regional, focused on a subject, on a target group, focused on a specific question or problem. Often it happens in our own silo, not knowing each other. I want to make the scale of what we do and achieve many times larger than it is now. We have to become as good at ‘doing’ as we are at ‘talking’ and ‘thinking’.

What I often miss is the translation and elaboration of our ambitions and ideas. We all believe that lifelong development is important, but what exactly should we do on Monday morning? Me, you, organizations, children. The difference between our dream and reality is called action.

What do you want to emphasize at the Board in the coming period in order to work on the smart, green and healthy future of the region?

My focus with the talent challenge is about connecting talking, thinking and doing. To facilitate and disseminate thought leadership and creating sustainable, scalable innovation and collaborations. I want to translate what our vision of ‘smart, green, healthy’ and ‘the most adaptive labor market’ means for talent. I would like us to make a loud voice about ‘what do we want as a region and how are we going to do that?’ And set up more initiatives that will develop what the future looks like. I see TechConnect as a great example of how to do that.