The objective of workforce planning is to ensure that the organization will have the right people with right skills in the right jobs to achieve its objectives and goals in the years to come. In conventional planning, an organization may conduct an assessment of the gaps in number, type and distribution of roles, prepare manpower projections basis that and then decide the recruitment actions to be taken. However, the modern workforce planning is a lot more than a headcount exercise.
Modern organizations start with the organization’s strategic plan, then scan internal and external talent pool, conduct benchmark studies of peer groups, assess workforce needs, do a gap analysis, prepare an action plan and then monitor. The steps may get expanded or collapsed based on life-stage of the organization or the industry it operates in.
The events of the past year have prompted organizations to take a closer look at midterm and long-term workforce plans. Organizations are beginning to repurpose or ‘pivot’ due to need for survival or growth or encashing an opportunity. Amidst the pandemic storm, organizations need to prepare for a move away from office-centric employment. Employee safety and well-being have always been an important concern for Employers – however, in the current scenario it is now a strategic lever! From hot-seating to work from home/remote/anywhere, organizations are examining roles from a location-agnostic lens. Use of technology to measure, maintain and enhance productivity is the next phase of workforce management.
The pandemic has created an enormous opportunity to make changes. Some of the trends that impact the workforce, including digitization and automation, remote work, and increase demand for gig workers, have emerged because of the pandemic.
Understanding the essentials in a bit more detail:
Shift in Plans!
In the short term, creating arrangements that allow work to be done from anywhere and remaining focussed on minimal loss of efficiency and effectiveness is the key. Most organizations would need to consider work-from-remote for as large a segment of their workforce as possible. In the medium term, the trend for hybrid workplaces shall gain more traction. Attendance rosters, once-a-week in-person meets mixed with virtual interaction, shall be a trend. In the long term, keeping a certain segment of workforce permanently Work-from-Home is a likely scenario. Several companies have signalled in that direction already and many more shall be taking the leap of faith.
Know Your People!
Remote working has its share of challenges for all stakeholders. Managing physical, mental and emotional well being of people shall be a priority for the Managers and HR. Building an emotional bond with colleagues is a hygiene human need. Training and engaging them through online social events, water-cooler talks, shall gain prominence. Setting up cross-functional teams for learning and readiness is essential. Facilitating movement between projects or departments can provide a sense of growth and professional fulfilment and may need to be done at regular intervals. Performance appraisal methodology may require a re-look to ensure that it is holistic and not focussed on a few priorities only. Data on performance may need to be readily available to facilitate year-round development actions.
Shutting down workplace and asking staff to work from home because of the pandemic has ramifications for workforce planning. Companies may need to increase deployment of temporary or contingent workers into their strategic workforce plan. This also puts additional onus on training and engagement efforts.
Focus on People!
The pandemic has put a strong emphasis on protecting both, life and livelihood. Many organizations have increased the ‘care’ for their people through financial, emotional and wellness support. Historically, organizations have invested energy focussing on skills and capabilities they require from employees for them to be successful. However, the pandemic has underscored the need to pay a greater degree of attention to the human-aspect of workplace. Addressing, the vulnerabilities felt by its employees, and helping build resilience in the workforce may be the next big competitive advantage for organizations.
Proceed with Caution:
Experts are cautioning employers as they revamp their workforce plans because of the pandemic. Accept that things will not be the same again – there is a new normal that is here to stay. Organizations may as well as look beyond the obvious talent pools when it comes to planning their future workforce. It is time to view the potential of candidates from a new lens. Organizations may as well re-think their own ability to retrain and redeploy talent. HR experts and organizations would do well to think in terms of the new behavioural competencies such as resilience, adaptability, self-empowerment, rather than technical ones alone. Broadening job roles to include digital/automation may be a step in the right direction. As organizations evolve, the adaptable nature of its people with changing economic situations could differentiate the winners from the also-rans!
Sai Surya has an experience of over 2 decades across sectors in the area of HR policies and processes, Talent management, Employer branding, Campus Connect, Employee engagement, R&R initiatives, Compensation & Benefits performance management system and governance related matters. His last assignment was with AU Small Finance Bank as Chief of HR. He is currently the Chief Peoples Officer at Fincare Small Finance Bank.