The new rules of workforce management

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Organisations are increasingly looking to maintain a competitive advantage through a high performing workforce. However, as the entire talent ecosystem continues to adapt, HR teams must work harder to identify, nurture and retain the skills they require in the continually evolving digital age.

According to PwC’s 2019 CEO Survey, the availability of skills is once again the top concern for UK business leaders, with 79% of respondents citing this as their number one challenge. In order to overcome potentially damaging talent shortages, smart business leaders are making the leap from reactive to proactive workforce management strategies - while considering how to best tap into disparate talent pools.

Workforce Management

Today’s blend of traditional full-time employees, part-timers, contingent workers, freelancers and outsourced staff, means that the rules of engagement are shifting. In our experience, organisations are no longer focusing on how they can recruit and retain extremely sought-after skills on a permanent basis, but are instead considering how they can gain access to niche expertise, whatever the working arrangement may look like. It seems we are not alone in noting this trend: according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, 72% of HR professionals agree flexibility is extremely important in shaping the future workplace. The same paper also reveals that there has been a 78% increase in job posts, mentioning ‘workplace flexibility’ since 2016.

Moving away from prescriptive employment models and rigid working hours brings many benefits for business, not least the potential to attract a more diverse workforce. However the financial perks associated with non-typical working should not be ignored. A recent Stanford study in China showed that letting employees work from home increased productivity by 13% and reduced turnover by 50%. The results were so successful that the company, Ctrip, rolled out the policy to all 16,000 employees—and saw even greater productivity gains: an increase of 22%. The company reported that it made about $2,000 more profit per person at home.

In order to implement such an effective programme, HR leaders will, of course, have to work closely with other functions, such as IT, to facilitate flexible working. Ensuring leaders are trained to manage non-typical workforces and promoting flexible working options are also key to success.  

However, most importantly, HR leaders must begin by analysing and measuring the talent they already have access to – and determining where there are gaps in expertise. 

Over the past decade, proactive organisations have taken steps to better understand and manage this shifting group of workers. This has led to greater flexibility, creativity and more effective planning – components vital to securing the best talent a business needs.

Workforce modelling, supported by data analytics, may hold the answer for companies looking to pre-empt and plan for future demand. In our experience, the challenge for most organisations is to optimise the current workforce while also predicting and forecasting for the future. Taking a strategic approach to how the workforce is structured would prepare an organisation to be better positioned to adapt and change business requirements.

For example, advanced analyses using predictive analytic algorithms can proactively mitigate shortfalls through adaptive knowledge retention strategies, while also providing information on current and future skills gaps.

Creating a workforce that is optimised for business requires a solid foundation, based on a comprehensive perspective that goes beyond the basics of contingent workforce management.

Today, a new adaptive and strategic approach is needed to get the right skills and balance in a workforce. Without this, a company risks halting growth. Particularly when you consider the growing complexity of the workforce, and the mounting challenges that come with increasing skills shortages.  

About Simon Blockley

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