How can HR meet challenges along the many routes to future work?
If, as an HR professional, you believe the often used quip ‘one size does not fit all’, then accepting the need for multiple paths, bridges and contingencies to future work should not be that difficult. In part three of this series on crossing the chasms to future work, Mike Hammer – aka ‘The Gig Doctor’ – will provide guidance for meeting known and unknown challenges along the way.
To progress along our HR journey to future work, we must recognise the gaps (people skills) and roadblocks (budget/management) earlier and act upon them more swiftly than we have in the past.
Typically, this has meant ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ in retrospect, rather than gathering pertinent data about one's products, services and markets served before addressing people requirements.
You can’t chart the path forward nor alternate routes without knowing your destination
If you don’t know your firm’s expected, defined destination, just like using GPS mapping with your smartphone, how can you prepare for your journey? In a collaborative effort with key executives, stakeholders, managers and team members, these key questions need accurate and detailed answers:
Has our products or services peaked or are they on the downside of the market(s) we serve?
Are there new products/services in the pipeline and when will they be delivered to their respective markets?
What are the marketing/advertising criteria and how will these be deployed?
What are the alternative products or plans if new products/services revenue objectives are not achieved?
Of course, there are more particulars to analyse. It is essential to be thorough, but not get bogged down in the weeds of execution or IT overload at this stage of the journey. Deloitte has an excellent chart in their ‘2018 Global Human Capital Trends Report’ regarding the role of the C-suite capitalising on people data.
While this phase of defining your routes to future work is in progress, an objective assessment of the skills currently required to sustain your current business model is needed. Even if you believe your existing data is sufficient, initiate this process in conjunction with an outside expert resource.
Objectivity is essential to our journey’s success
We all have biases that can weigh on our objectivity, therefore seeking a referenced specialist in people skills analysis to guide this process, and not a favoured vendor or their product(s), is important.
If your organisation has invested in a people or skills data collection process, or a technology to do so, all the better. The objective is to arrive at a credible assessment, which will be your baseline for future skills required that can be presented to your leadership.
From this collaborative process, the direction of your organisation can be clarified and presented as a business plan with risk and people assessments.
In the recent past, the culmination of these activities would result in casting the agreed upon plan in stone or, at the very least, in a binder to be shelved and brought out on occasion to check for updates. To few consider it a living document that is a guidepost for changes and course corrections, or alternatives to the established route and objectives.
Using HR tech tools to assist, not as the end game
A high percentage of employment recruiting is accomplished online with improved technologies, making it possible to technically interface with most HR hiring and onboarding software and cloud platforms in a near seamless fashion.
Acceptance of investing in people data storage technologies has accelerated in the past decade. It has also increased pressure on HR for more accurate interpretation of these data.
Combined with functional analysis, HR can take the lead in developing alternative routes (scenarios), where a variance of people skills will occur as a result of changes in the markets served and company strategies to address them.
Secondarily, HR must be realistic about the effects of rapid changes on the pool of people skills, as well as retention and attrition. How will HR adjust or compensate for this? Are you prepared to compete, with perhaps long delays, in securing the people skills you will require at any given time in the future? If you can’t envision that point in time, how will you know what people skills will be necessary to continue your journey from that point forward?
No, your organisation will not escape automation or disruption
We know automation will take its toll in reducing repetitive labour jobs. It’s worth repeating IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty’s comments at the 2019 World Economic Forum. “As tech automation continues to outpace reskilling and the skills gap widens, job insecurity fears among wage earners are real and growing. One hundred percent of all jobs are going to change – most new roles will be digital.” Plan for it.
What alternatives routes (bridges) should you plan to undertake?
First, qualify the basic skills expected for long-term hires. It’s a solid bridge to future work, but not very flexible.
If you haven’t enough company and market data to forecast skills requirements beyond your defined horizon, seek short-term solutions.
Build leadership lines of secession and training for a future pipeline of leaders with proven computational thinking skills that can be used to accelerate and adapt to growth.
Identify specialised skills that are required for only a limited time, which can be contracted from a staffing agency, gig online platforms or freelance independents. Budget for and prepare to access these resources quickly.
Are there segments of your workforce that can work remotely or in rental, shared facilities like WeWork, Café NOC, All-Pro Services Network? This approach is growing in acceptance. It is an advantage that increasingly utilises specialists on-demand rather than permanent hires, which may not meet expectations fast enough.
Think outside the box and your comfort zone. Leave no options unexplored. You will need all the opportunities to meet the impact of the tsunami of change ahead.
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Mike Hammer is a recognized authority in HR blended workforce design, technologies, and transformational methods to future work environments. Known as the Gig Doctor; he uses customer data/analytics to find opportunities amid uncertainty to configure workforce utilization for defined growth and a competitive advantage. Mike writes about all...