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How Can Workforce Planning Help Organisations Access the Skills they need to Thrive in the Digital Age?

By | David Green | Alicia Roach |

79% of CEOs are concerned about skill availability impacting innovation, cost, quality and growth at their organisation. The pandemic has only exacerbated the problem, as Covid-19 continues to disrupt work and workforce models. Findings from a recent survey conducted by McKinsey show that 35% of global executives said they would need more workers skilled in automation, AI, and robotics, a reflection of the increased deployment of automation during COVID-19. Furthermore, 70% said that two years from now they expect to use more temporary workers and contractors than they did before the COVID-19 crisis. 

In a bid to tackle this skills conundrum, organisations are turning to skills-based workforce planning. According to Insight222’s own research, nearly all companies (90%) express a desire to build a skills-based workforce planning process. However, only a quarter of companies (26%) are actively doing so.

I caught up recently with Alicia Roach, Co-Founder and Director at eQ8 and a recognised thought leader in Strategic Workforce Planning and Analytics, to hear her views on the future of workforce planning and how it can be used to help organisations access the skills they need to thrive in the digital age.

1. You often talk about connecting people and purpose, can you share some insight on how organisations might go about doing that or getting started down that path?

Indeed.  This is about answering what is, in my mind, THE most fundamental question for an organisation:  what is our purpose, and what will it take to achieve it?  This is recognising that an organisation’s people, i.e., its workforce, is the execution vehicle for that purpose.  The best leaders recognise that the workforce is not some afterthought, that will just materialise with the right capability and capacity as and when it’s needed.  And by the way, what we are talking about is usually the largest cost and most definitely is the biggest asset for organisations, so it just makes sense to do this.

Understanding the questions to answer is really important for organisations as they go down this path.  It is always so surprising to me that organisations don’t have their arms around the fundamentals.  For example, if you ask an organisation if they have a view of the workforce (size, skills and shape) they need today – 70-80% answer “no”.  Ask them if they have a view of the workforce needed in three or five years, and the “no’s” rise nearly to 100%!  And yet virtually all leaders understand their company will look different in five years’ time!  It is truly baffling that leaders acknowledge change is coming, is inevitable, is here already – but don’t have any way to understand what this means for their organisation, their workforce.  This is what we are looking to solve for.

So, Strategic Workforce Planning (or SWP) is the way to bridge this risky gap.  This is about understanding purpose, strategy and translating that into workforce implications.  It creates that inherent link between people and purpose, aligning the workforce to the value chain and activity drivers of the organisation.  It goes beyond the day-to-day BAU fluctuations, to also capture the change factors that matter.  The reality is that to deliver its transformation, digitisation or growth agendas, leaders are relying on the capabilities and skills of the workforce

Fundamentally, SWP drives a conversation.  This is a critical conversation, because we are evolving HR from past process-driven agendas, into a truly strategic and transformative member of the leadership team.  This is about understanding the strategy, factors of change, competitive advantage and so on, and what it then means for the people in the organisation.  The framework below captures these elements.

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