Chief Human Resources Officers are key to workforce resilience

The financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is severe, rapid and global in nature. Tens of millions of people may lose their jobs before we see a recovery get underway.

Organizations globally are experiencing workforce disruption at an unprecedented scale and speed. This is propelling CHROs into the spotlight of this human crisis. Their role has never been more stressful, vital and visible. For example, Accenture has led by partnering with CHROs of leading companies to create People + Work Connect, an analytics-based platform that facilitates continued employment.

Taking charge

CHROs across industries are rising to the challenge. They are best placed to help people and organizations navigate workforce shifts en masse. Their expertise in developing agile workforce strategies is critical to keeping the global economy viable and helping people and their families survive financially now and in the future.

The good news: Opportunities are appearing as companies and industries work together to keep people in paying work. That means a hard-hit industry like hospitality helps its workers redeploy to an industry that needs extra workers, like grocery retailers.

This shared workforce resilience means keeping as many workers healthy, safe and employed as possible in the now. With an eye to equipping people with new skills for the future.

Innovative solutions forged in disruptive times

People, organizations and communities need answers now. Plans need to be fit-for-purpose today but capable of evolving as the global health and economic environment changes.

No enterprise can do this alone. Businesses, governments, citizens, and non-profits play critical roles. It’s at the intersection of these stakeholder interests where inspired and inspiring solutions can occur.

With that in mind, we propose a human-centered, systems-minded approach that promotes shared workforce resilience. This is not a one-time process. It requires the development of persistent capabilities and relationships across stakeholder groups. Each organization will be at a different level of maturity, and with varied labor laws and regulations around the world, not every company will move at the same rate or follow the same path.

A plan for shared resilience

CHROs can focus on five key areas to help their organizations achieve long-lasting workforce resilience.

CHROs can focus on five key capabilities to help their organization achieve long-lasting workforce resilience.

1. Predict Demand Shifts

Identify and forecast where workforce shifts need to occur. The unprecedented disruption and pace of change can make traditional forecasting models obsolete. Rapid, iterative modeling of potential scenarios can optimize decision making. It won’t be perfect, but it can be sufficient to start planning and taking action.

Key question:

How do you use analytics to understand and prepare for the shifts of workers across industries and companies?

Key activities:

  • Start with possible scenarios and rapidly build a workforce approach. Start with current needs and look into the future. Evolve your plan to include elasticity and resilience in workforce skilling and sourcing.
  • Hone in on skills. Outline the future skills and aptitudes required, versus jobs or people, and define the high-level skills profiles needed for both the expanding and declining work in your organization.
  • Tap technology and analytics to uncover what an excel spreadsheet can’t show you. Use AI and machine learning to expose local labor-market supply and demand, sometimes in other industries, for potentially impacted work and associated skills.

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2. Assess Skill Profiles

Create a baseline for the skills you possess versus skills predicted to be in high demand. Create future-oriented profiles based on the skills, aptitudes and interests required. Look for unique combinations and consider related adjacent skills that can broaden the range of available roles.

Key question:

How do you assess the optimal shift in your workforce, both in number and skills?

Key activities:

  • Double down on skills. Develop skill profiles of displaced and in-demand workers with key information like role, skills, proficiency, experience, hours, pay, home and work location.
  • Don’t underestimate aptitudes and adjacencies. Move at pace by using AI and machine learning techniques to assess not only skills, but also aptitudes. In accounting for market shifts, consider and model skill adjacencies for in-demand work.
  • Be transparent with your people. Share information on individual skill profiles, the in-demand skills and the development opportunities during the assessment process. Seek to give access and control of the skill profile to the employee.

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3. Connect Workers at Scale

Bring together people at scale by shifting impacted people within or outside the organization. Regardless of industry barriers, organizations can partner to build a resilient ecosystem that helps people access continued employment opportunities.

Key question:

How do you collaborate internally across functions and externally across industries to connect people to future work?

Key activities:

  • Create unlikely partnerships. Look to develop non-profit, public sector and outside industry relationships directly, or leverage intermediaries, that deliver opportunities by helping match groups of people with needed skills to employers with specific skill needs.
  • Reconsider the workforce model. Look at alternative employment models and other job design options to respond rapidly to workforce shifts.
  • Stay grounded in skills and aptitudes. Connect impacted people by matching their direct and/or adjacent skills to new opportunities and interests.

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4. Accelerated Learning

Use your insights into demand profiles to develop a well-defined picture of the relevant skills needed. By comparing existing skills to current needs, HR can identify the skill gaps for the organization. Create the ability for people to rapidly learn, in order to change the trajectory of their career.

Key question:

How do you accelerate individuals’ learning curves, so they can become more productive? Or, so they can become a productive member of someone else’s organization?

Key activities:

  • Tap into human potential. Allow people to opt in and choose their learning. Don’t underestimate the human potential to continually learn and grow.
  • Address the most critical skillset gaps within the organization. Leverage agile platforms to quickly develop curated learning pathways and facilitate learning networks.
  • Close the gap on skill adjacencies. Take advantage of the high degree of transferability between needed skills and related adjacent skills. Accelerate learning based on the most in-demand adjacent skills.

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5. Foster Shared Resilience

Creating shared workforce resilience means embracing vulnerability and encouraging open sharing about what’s hard and uncomfortable. These behaviors and mindsets lay the foundation for new ways of working that foster a more collaborative and less competitive talent ecosystem.

Key question:

How do you care for, nurture and foster resilience in people?

Key activities:

  • Keep innovating and investing. Explore new operating models that unleash people’s ability to quickly adapt to change. Time and money in new alliances, learning and ecosystems will support a more adaptive and resilient workforce.
  • Encourage and expect personal growth. Create the space and opportunity for people to build confidence in their skills and potential as they shift into new work.
  • Stay connected with your people. Continue to foster trust by creating opt-in opportunities for temporarily transitioned people to access ongoing learning and hear about open roles or workforce shifts. Enable people to plan for work transitions with confidence.

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Coronavirus & human resources: Moving forward

The global pandemic has created an unprecedented sense of shared purpose for political, business, civic and human prosperity. The common global goal of reviving the economy is dissolving traditional industry and organization boundaries, inspiring collective action.

CHROs are on the front line of this response, equipped with the advanced technologies and intelligence they need to help navigate these sudden, massive workforce shifts.

Building these rapid response capabilities go far beyond any one crisis and into a new future of work—one fueled by the courage to try new things, a commitment to responsible leadership, and a sense of shared purpose that fosters the greater good.

How can we create shared workforce resilience?

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