The Struggle Is Real
While economies struggle with uncertainty and as work and workers seem to be in flux, HR and recruiting departments are focused on how to plan the workforce.
Many questions are being asked:
What kind of skills will we need? For how long? Should we hire for those skills or develop them?
Retailers are trying to forecast how many associates and store managers they will need in the face of growing automation and online shopping, manufacturing is looking at the impact of robotics, and everyone is concentrating on finding management talent. PowerPoint slide decks team with formulas and numbers forecasting a certain amount of turnover and a certain level of recruiting focused on replacements, as well as on growth.
Workforce Planning Today
The programs I have seen are logical, combine all the elements of what is generally considered good planning, and produce very comprehensive reports, plans and guidelines. The most thorough of these processes offer everything from tools to conduct competency analysis, assess gaps, prescribe development, conduct performance management and manage succession. Consultants are offering a variety of tools and programs, and much of what is offered in excellent. I wish these had been around 20 years ago when I was in corporate HR as they would have been more useful than they are today.
Planning was only partially successful in the 20th century but now has become illusionary. Skills defined as critical one day (webmaster, for example in 1999) are commonly available today or not needed, while those skills ignored (creative thinking, project management) are highly sought after.
Performance management looks at yesterday and, at best, tells you where someone was, but not where they are today. Succession plans can consume weeks of management time only to be discarded as needs change and people move on. At the beginning of each year and often each quarter, HR managers and recruiters pour over anticipated hiring numbers that inevitably change significantly only days or weeks later. Hiring managers are not certain what they will need or when they will need it, and unannounced mergers and acquisitions invalidate months of work.
The Future Is Harder Than Ever To Predict
One of the characteristics of modern economies has been the focus they put on quantitative prediction and forecasting. Unfortunately, 21st century economies and talent needs are much harder to predict. The older methods of analysis are based on assumptions that consumers’ needs and wants are predictable and that the skills workers have will remain the same.
They fail to take into consideration generational differences, the impact of robotics and other technologies, the changing workplace, or the looming retirement of baby boomers. Complexity has soared and simplistic planning methods fall well short of what is needed.
The bottom line is very clear – it will be (is) impossible to “plan” the workforce of the future in any meaningful way for more than perhaps 3-6 months.
Instead, organisations will have to replace these standard predictive models with adaptive techniques that are based on the ability to anticipate changes in talent needs and markets, to develop employee readiness, to respond rapidly to needs, and to encourage and champion a new approach to thinking about positions and jobs. The focus needs to be on the process of recruiting and ensuring that you have in place the tools and capabilities to meet any demand, not on achieving specific short-term numbers.
The Four Requirements For Effectively Meeting Future Needs
Understanding Your Supply Chain Of Talent
In order to anticipate the challenges you face and to educate and guide hiring management, you must gain a thorough knowledge of both your supply chain and your current employees’ capabilities and skills. This means that you will need to do research into who is in your local talent market and who is in an extended, global market. Anticipation will be a major factor in how successful you can be. You will need antennae that scan the internal organization for signs of change, indications of growth, downsizing, outsourcing, mergers or acquisitions.
These antennae will have to also constantly connect to the external talent market so that you have a sense of which skills and capabilities are readily available and which are more difficult to find. This will require the use of competitive intelligence tools and techniques so that you will know who works for the competition of for other desirable employers and how likely they might be to move to your organization.
Engaging Those In The Chain
You will need to use social media and targeted talent communities to build and maintain a very wide range of relationships with diverse candidates. If you do not have relationships and rapid response capabilities, the best candidates will have already been snatched up by whomever does.
Statistics and analytics applied to your social media, recruiting website and other activities will give you a picture of where you need to focus and on what is working.
2. Employee readiness – Not succession planning
Having a wide range of employees ready for any needs that arise is a far better goal than traditional succession planning. While we cannot predict that a particular position will even be replaced once the incumbent is gone, we can make sure that we have the skills found in that position distributed widely in employees at all levels. That way when needs arise we can pick the level and mix of skills that makes sense.
The Value Of Internal Talent
Internal talent is far more valuable than external. Those who already work for you have intimate knowledge of the organisations and how work gets done which usually means they are more productive. They are motivated and culturally aligned if they have been with you for a while, and given the right training or development opportunities, can move into other positions with less loss of productivity. But this requires that the recruiting function be part of the talent team and ensure that anyone who has skills gets placed inside.
This may well require internal formal development programs – maybe sponsored by the recruiting department – as well as “formal” informal development activities such as coaching and job rotations.
3. Rapid Response
Speed Is Critical
Once a need is identified, you will need to fill that need very quickly. Candidate quality and speed to present candidates are the two most cited desirable traits in a recruiting function. As the markets get tighter your ability to use social media and search techniques to find, pre-source, qualify candidates and engage candidates will become a significant success factor.
If there are significant hiring needs, you may need rapid response teams that can attack a talent need aggressively using the data you have collected through your market research and social media activities. Traditional recruiting methods will not work as more aggressive recruiters will already have landed the best candidates.
4. New Look at Jobs
Create Flexible Job Descriptions
The concept of a job or of a position that contains a more or less static set of skills and competencies is not going to hold up much longer. While most organisations need broad categories of work performed – mechanical engineering, database administration, and customer service representation for example –the skills and the duties performed can be remarkably different organization to organization, even within the organization and vary over time. One of the attractions of outsourcing is the ability to change needs quickly without layoffs or massive hiring. Just leave that to the outsourcing firm.
However, by re-looking at job descriptions and titles and by building in flexibility around the skills required to get a piece of work done, more internal staff can be used and a broader slice of external candidates can qualify.
By keeping jobs narrowly defined we limit not only our ability to hire quickly but also the potential for creativity and change.
Traditional workforce planning seems comfortable and is highly acceptable. The only thing wrong with it is that it doesn’t work. It is time for new approaches – perhaps driven by the recruiting folks who are on the frontline of the coming new talent wars.
If you want to learn more about how to prepare for the future workforce, and what you need to do now, join Kevin at this year’s Contingent Workforce Conference. Kevin will be joined by Simon Townsend, Chief Innovation Office Allegis Global Soltions and Peter Oreb, Director Australia/NZ for CXC Global on a panel session, which will discusses the trends, how they’ll affect different industries, and the changes you need to start implementing. Register your early bird ticket here.