Getting strategic about shaping the workforce of the future
By Nelisa Doda, Human Resources Lead for Accenture in South Africa
Workforces around the globe and in South Africa are in a state of flux. No longer made up of largely permanent positions, they are assuming a more malleable quality as they adapt to constantly shifting business environments, a change necessitated by rapid-fire digital transformation.
In the past, businesses could get away with erratic and spreadsheet-intensive workforce planning. Now, increased automation, demographic shifts and globalisation are overturning labour supply and demand conventions. More than ever, organisations in South Africa and abroad need to adapt their workforces to the fluctuating business landscape.
Executives estimate that in the next few years 44% of the workforce will be made up of contractors or temporary positions and that 79% of this fluid workforce will be aligned to dynamic projects rather than fixed job functions.
Today, workforce planning is catching up with this new reality and is as dynamic as the changing business environment. There are prescriptive analytic tools designed to help organisations go beyond simply describing “what is happening now” or “what might happen in the future” to controlling “what should happen.”
Scenario-based strategic workforce planning is more than predicting the future of work based on historical trends. It is a digital platform that allows businesses to constantly optimise workforce choices to deliver on their business strategies. This involves constant testing, learning and tweaking across multiple dimensions and futures.
In South Africa, relatively few organisations are engaged in scenario planning and those that do often plan in functional silos using delayed workforce data. There is also often a narrow focus on internal employees, with factors such as external workforce, material capacity or client interactions excluded from the planning.
Strategic workforce panning as a business capability requires enterprise vision and the continuous integration of planning across domains (process, workforce and supply chain), planning layers (physical, data and behaviour) and time horizons (operational, tactical and strategic).
Only this type of multi-domain planning will provide a real-time view of all the variable that impact workforce planning and talent strategy as well as the interdependencies among them.
A silo-busting approach forms the basis of simulation capabilities that drive modern strategic workforce planning. Simulation models depend on a large about of organisational information from across the business to generate a precis, on-demand picture of expected future supply and demand.
Strategic workforce planning simulations harness the human and machine dynamic. While machines conduct prescriptive simulations, humans analyse the results to understand how personnel shifts impact the talent pool for the most critical positions across the organisation. They then use these insights to develop succession and recruitment plans, redefine nomination criteria for critical talent and identify appropriate talent interventions to ensure the organisation’s future talent needs are met.
Organisations hoping to successfully change their workforce planning game need to begin with the fundamentals:
Abandon the idea of perfect data
Organisations are often paralysed by waiting for perfect data. This is misguided as perfect data does not exist. Simulations depend more on the right data for the task at hand than on perfect data.
Focus less on ownership and more on action
Choosing where to embed the strategic workforce planning capability is unique to every organisation and can result in turf-wars. What is non-negotiable is that both the business and human resources are involved and aligned and that predictive analysis integrates enterprise and human resources data.
Master art and science
Scenario-based strategic workforce planning involves various skills and roles. Data scientists are critical for developing and running algorithms while business leaders who makes decisions based on the results must be immerse in the broader business context. And both parties need to be adaptable and willing to questions their own assumptions.
Done right, strategic workforce planning will ultimately empower South African companies to operationalise predictions of changing workforce supply to shape the future of work. There will be no delivering of the business strategy without it and no competing as a digital business without it.
Accenture (NYSE: ACN) is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations. Combining unmatched experience and specialised skills across more than 40 industries and all business functions – underpinned by the world’s largest delivery network – Accenture works at the intersection of business and technology to help clients improve their performance and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. With approximately 394,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture drives innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. Visit us at www.accenture.com.
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