The Agile Enterprise: Crafting a New Approach to Workforce Planning
With disruption lurking at every turn, organizations need to create a more agile approach to future-proofing their workforce.
Does your workforce strategy have you ready for tomorrow?
Chances are, you’re not sure. Disruptive technologies aren’t just reshaping business models; they’re reshaping the way work gets done—placing a premium on technical savvy, agility, and adaptability.
The workforce itself is changing, too. Millennials are fast becoming the largest generation represented in the workforce, bringing with them new ideas about career paths and work-life balance. Meanwhile, increases in life expectancy suggest we’re approaching a time when many workers can expect to live to 100 years of age, and in doing so, pursue multiple careers in their lifetime. In addition, the concept of “workforce” is expanding far beyond employees and outsourcing partners, to include a growing population of gig workers and automation in the form of physical and digital robots.
All this is heightening the challenge for employers seeking the optimal approach to securing not just the top talent, but the right talent. For those that want to find themselves among tomorrow’s disrupters rather than the disrupted, they must adopt a new way of thinking about their workforce.
Traditional workforce planning—a point-in-time exercise aimed at matching job-seeker skills to current job openings—won’t be sufficient. Not in a world where man and machine, tethered by artificial intelligence and intelligent automation, work ever more closely together. Or where the breakdown of functional silos as a result of technological innovation calls for a more nimble enterprise, one in which a diverse range of workers are able to collaborate on short notice in agile, project-based structures.
To prepare for this tomorrow, we propose that organizations and human resources embrace workforce shaping. A new approach to talent identification, acquisition, and development, workforce shaping calls for HR to partner with the business to visualize future scenarios, enabled by data models and market signals, of how the enterprise itself might evolve. It also requires looking at how specific functions might change, down to the task level, and then determining the workforce capabilities those changes will require. How, for example, might the organization’s business model have to adapt to meet evolving customer expectations? How will automation impact current employees’ tasks? What skills and capabilities will tomorrow’s employees need to thrive in this new environment? Armed with answers to questions like these, companies can begin to hire employees capable of adapting to whatever tomorrow brings.
The emergence of this need requires a completely new role within the HR organization and an evolved relationship with the business. Unlike strategic workforce planning, which is typically owned by HR, the business leads workforce shaping. As a facilitator, HR’s dedicated workforce shaper serves as a consultant to the business units, bringing methodology, workforce knowledge and people analytics to help business owners adapt their talent strategy.
HR must be as nimble and agile as the workforce it is intending to build because with this role arises a need to embrace and expand out-of-the-box skills and thinking. It requires a deep, strategic-level understanding of industry and marketplace trends that will translate into ascending job skills and a potentially transformed workforce.
Enterprise credibility is always at stake for HR, but technology can help. In the form of sophisticated analytics, HR and business leaders have the ability to test their theories and predict talent needs more precisely than in the past. Partnering with strategic analysts who have a keen sense of the business’s needs and goals can help convert those findings into strategy, helping leadership build a business case for a stronger, more ready workforce.
More than a one-time undertaking, this needs to be an ongoing exercise in which the business and human resources partner to shape the workforce—an exercise that inextricably ties talent to business strategy. Workforce shaping works from the future backward to inform key talent decisions you can take today to have the highest impact tomorrow.
It is impossible, of course, to know exactly what tomorrow’s workforce should look like. But waiting to find out isn’t an option. Proactive workforce shaping offers organizations the chance to ready themselves today for what tomorrow will bring.
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