workforce planning during a period of extreme disruption?

August 20, 2021 Mike Smith

workforce planning in a post-COVID market Randstad Sourceright

here are 4 considerations to optimize results

Among the many disruptions the pandemic has wrought on the global economy, one of the most significant for businesses is the impact on the labor market. Not for a long time have we experienced such a mismatch between talent supply and demand and polarization of regional markets. Unemployment remains stubbornly high in areas still struggling with rolling out vaccines, while in others millions of jobs go unfilled. It is truly a head-scratching time.

For talent leaders, this has resulted in a highly fluid environment, making it challenging to conduct workforce planning. And as additional waves of COVID-19 infections surge in places like the U.S., predicting resourcing needs for 2022 has become just as much art as it is science. Further complicating workforce planning efforts are a raft of fresh human capital issues stemming from the pandemic, such as updating remote work policies, safe operating protocols, workforce engagement and well-being, among others. 

Of course, even before the pandemic, many companies were already approaching workforce planning with a skills vs. job mindset. This approach aligns with the total talent model some companies have adopted in recent years. By considering skills irrespective of work arrangements, organizations can access the resources they need to get work done more quickly. With the pandemic introducing more uncertainty to workforce planning, some talent leaders see it as an opportunity to accelerate their efforts to build a more agile workforce.

But to make this happen, human capital leaders will need transformative ideas and an appetite for change from the top down. For some time, leading HR and procurement executives have championed progressive change in their talent management approach, but many organizations were not yet ready. A traditional mindset, siloed operations and resistance to innovation have slowed their efforts. However, we’ve arrived at a critical crossroads that offers two choices: continue legacy management practices or blaze a new path that will deliver long-term benefits to the business.

At a time when many organizations are still coping with the fallout of the global crisis, a total talent shift may prove too much of an undertaking for some. On the other hand, for those who see the crisis as an opportunity rather than challenge, the rewards are outstanding.

how to get started

To adopt a more agile approach to workforce planning, you’ll need to pay close attention to four critical elements:

1. Consider skills vs. job-based management.
The in-demand skills of today were scarce even before the pandemic, but acceleration in digital transformation has exacerbated the situation. By enabling talent to apply their skills across the organization — building on their work experience and further honing their skills — companies are better resourced for fluctuations and uncertainty. Sharing these skills creates tremendous agility. More importantly, this approach raises engagement, satisfaction and, ultimately, retention.

2. Create insights out of data.
HR, like many parts of the business today, is inundated with data. But data without insights is meaningless, so it’s critical to understand which information can guide decisions about your workforce.

Also, can you use it in real time? Do you have a comprehensive view of skills your business currently possesses? What skills are accessible from your talent pool, and how quickly can you deploy these resources should you need them? Where is the talent you need located? Do you have good data on your equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) practices?

More companies are building on their analytics capabilities, but according to Human Resource Executive magazine, 65% of companies lack insights to support their skills vs. jobs approach. Building insights should be a priority for everyone.

3. Choose the right technology.
Whether it’s a modeling tool or an analytics dashboard, there are many commercial technologies available to support workforce planning. Some ERP systems offer such functionality while standalone solutions deliver unique and best-in-class services. But even with a robust market offering available, some companies are developing home-grown tools to serve a specific need, whether to support permanent hiring or to manage their growing contingent workforce.

Choosing the right technology is a deliberative process worthy of extra attention as this will be a key enabler for your workforce planning efforts. Make sure to involve key stakeholders whose expertise and buy-in will be necessary for success. Also, consider involving your talent solution provider to help with modeling.

4. Build a governance model that involves the right people.
Workforce planning requires input from many stakeholders, but that doesn’t mean anyone with a passing interest should have a seat at the table. At the same time, excluding the right people can also result in poor results later on.

​Start with a core group, such as an HR leader, a finance advisor and an operational leader with considerable influence in the business. When necessary, invite talent acquisition experts, contingent workforce managers or anyone else whose input can be beneficial as needed. A good governance model should be comprehensive without being overly burdensome.

the total talent management playbook

Like many companies, your organization faces many challenges as a result of the pandemic. The current surge in labor demand will unlikely to persist for long, but in-demand skills will always pose difficulties for talent leaders. As you consider the human capital your company needs in the near and distant future, consider adopting new models and tools to help you build the most agile and sustainable workforce. Embracing a transformative change during such a disruptive time may be the best thing to come from an otherwise crisis.  

Not sure where to start when it comes to your total talent strategy? Get the total talent management playbook for tips.

About the Author

Mike Smith

With a 16-year career at Randstad, Mike Smith brings a wealth of experience in the talent acquisition industry to his role as Randstad Sourceright global CEO. Smith joined Randstad in January 2005 as a graduate recruitment executive and has since held various operational and leadership roles for Randstad including managing Randstad’s business operations in Australia, managing director for Southeast Asia, CEO of Randstad UK and managing director of Randstad Sourceright in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. An active driver of Randstad’s “tech and touch” strategy, in his role as CEO, Smith continues to elevate Randstad Sourceright's customer value propositions, seek out ongoing areas for differentiation and embed change through investment in business transformation technology.

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