In brief

In brief

  • In the age of automation, organizations must understand the blueprint of their current workforce in order to build future-ready teams.
  • In light of this, strategic workforce planning helps enterprises understand their workforce dynamics and evolve to meet their long-term needs.
  • Backed by learning analytics, organizations are now much better placed to reskill their workforce for the future.

Approximately half of all jobs will be materially impacted by automation in the next 15-20 years, according to the OCED Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of Work. What’s more, Accenture research finds that 79 percent of executives agree that work is shifting from roles to projects—challenging both the function and makeup of the workforce as we know it.

Several other trends are also contributing to this radically shifting workforce landscape.

The gig economy is growing in popularity. As more and more employees look for different opportunities, many are not choosing permanent jobs. In 2018 alone, 56.7 million Americans freelanced, and it is predicted that by 2027, the majority of America’s workers will be freelance. Those choosing part-time work or even working for multiple employers at one time will need to be factored into evolving workforce models.

Advances in digital and automation have allowed organizations to gain efficiency and increase productivity. But adopting these technologies means that organizations must plan for their workforce—especially those at risk of being made redundant.

In addition, as many as 40 percent of companies are already reporting that talent shortages are impacting their ability to adapt and innovate. This all serves to highlight the need for organizations to upskill, reskill and cross-skill existing workers.

Apart from people, machines are also becoming a highly important part of the workforce, driving the need for companies to consider their future talent pool and the skills they will need to leverage. In this context, it is unsurprising that many organizations are making the move toward a more dynamic workforce set up.

Enter strategic workforce planning.

A new approach to strategic workforce planning

While strategic workforce planning (SWFP) isn’t new, it is more important than ever for organizations to identify their optimal workforce mix and tailor their investment to suit.

In particular, SWFP helps organizations strike the right balance between external contractors and internal workforce, as well as the right blend of human and machine effort to drive the business forward.

SWFP helps to serve as a key foundation for ensuring organizations are future-ready by taking into account growth requirements and helping to initiate the journey of workforce DNA transformation.

By providing a holistic perspective of the current workforce, and existing as well as future gaps, strategic workforce planning can help organizations assess forthcoming risks and identify quick wins to yield potential savings. This enables organizations to strategize their recruitment and reskilling plans well in advance, as well as ascertain the most advantageous size and workforce mix of the organization both in the short and long term.

For example, using HR transformation analytics, organizations are turning recruitment from what was traditionally often a process based on "gut-feel," to one informed and backed by advanced data insights. This transformation enables businesses to find the right people at the right time with the most relevant skills from a larger pool of applicants, whilst saving on time and money.

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In a nutshell, SWFP helps companies to be in a future-ready state, by enabling them to:

  • Have a good hold of the current workforce scenario
  • Be well informed of possible future workforce gaps, facilitating them to strategize gap fulfilment and avoid the probable revenue losses due to those gaps
  • Devise a comprehensive action plan on efficiently utilizing the various workforce types to drive maximum productivity
  • Be well aware of the overtime changes in workforce dynamics and reasons for those changes
  • Design and implement optimal reskilling strategies in line with the changing requirements, at the same time as providing optimal career pathways to their workforce

A dynamic, data-driven perspective

So how can organizations take advantage of strategic workforce planning and transform the DNA of their workforce? There are a few different paths organizations may choose to go down—each with their own pros and cons—including off-the-shelf solutions, platform SWFP modules and custom-built solutions.

For some, off-the-shelf solutions might be the preferred option. Tapping into already available, off-the-shelf SWFP solutions from partners such as Accenture can be the accelerator for the organizations to initiate the journey of workforce transformation. These solutions are agile and fast-paced with customization capabilities as per the organization’s business and functional requirements.

Alongside the option of ready-made solutions, there are custom solutions. These could range from low-scale solutions tailored to suit the specific context, through to industrialized models based on best practices across industries and organizations. These can be easily integrated with the organization’s own HRMS systems as required and act as a reusable framework that supports continuous assessment and strategizing.

Custom solutions follow a comprehensive approach starting from current scenario assessment to gap fulfilment and are backed by assessment of impact due to the changing nature of work and workforce needs.

A helpful steer

Often organizations are either unaware of the impact and value of HR analytics or they don’t know where to start or how to move ahead. To understand the unique value SWFP holds for them before they embark on their journey, organizations must seek advisory support.

For example, the head of operations at a large oil and gas firm might seek strategic workforce planning and advisory support to understand how workforce dynamics could help drive a growth target of 10 percent over five years. Using HR transformation analytics, the executive could determine the optimal workforce makeup to support that growth and implement accordingly, assessing for ongoing performance and success in turn.

Apart from selecting off- or on-the-shelf solutions, advisors can help with a number of other matters, too:

  • Managing the data associated with setting up a workforce analytics unit
  • Offering guidance on the difference between reporting and value-added analytics
  • Understanding the impact of workforce performance and behavior on company performance metrics
  • Targeting and connecting with senior decision-makers, who hold the investment resources

A strategic outlook

Increasingly, the workforce consists of more than just humans. Robots, chatbots and other automated technologies are entering the workspace, driving up productivity, efficiency and satisfaction levels.

In this radically shifting workforce landscape, strategic workforce planning can empower organizations, provide direction and actionable insights. Some of the questions it can help to answer include:

  • What is the impact of future demand scenarios or supply calibrations on my organization’s overall workforce requirement?
  • Which business-critical segments will my organization need to prioritize for future readiness in order to minimize impact?
  • What actions should my organization prioritize to try and ensure a lean approach to building a more productive and more agile business?
  • How can my organization minimize impact on current processes whilst still aligning with the future workforce and growth requirements?
  • What is the optimal FTE requirement at the most granular level of decision-making?
  • Which fulfillment strategy is relevant for the organization based upon business objectives and organizational constraints?

On a macro level, legal discussions, which aim to consider who is responsible for the robot workforce, have already started and will only be accelerating in the years to come. The human-machine balance is also firmly on the planning agenda. The next frontier for HR to claim—no matter how futuristic it may seem—will be robot well-being and productivity.

The only thing left for those organizations that want to tap into the potential that this future workforce holds is to start planning now.

Get in touch to learn more about how to get started with strategically planning the workforce of the future.

Tanushree Guha

Managing Director – Applied Intelligence, Talent & Organization​


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