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Changing the Workforce Planning Approach

January 13, 2022

By Anthony Kaylin, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Unfortunately for most HR leaders, workforce planning has taken a side road to workforce replenishment and workforce upskilling.  With the great resignation and workers not returning after being recalled, jobs are empty, and production needs to continue.  New workers need to be acclimated quickly into the organization and focused on current – not future – needs.

The problem for HR is that the future is coming, and the transitional change of the workforce needs will soon be transformational.  HR cannot just be focused on putting out fires, as exhausting as that may be, but focused on how the organizational will grow (in other words, how it will generate its revenues and profits).  The workflow, the machinery, the skills, etc. today are not likely to be the same for tomorrow.  There is too much disruption – either because of the workforce shortage or the innovative challengers to the “traditional” marketplace. 

So how should HR approach the fast-coming future?  First, HR needs to talk to leadership as to their vision of coming out of the pandemic and expectation on how the organization will remain profitable and viable (even nonprofits could lose viability if not up to the times of the day).  They might have to pull leadership heads out of the sand.  Once HR has that identified, which could be long and difficult discussions, HR needs to focus on leaderships workforce needs – the skills, knowledge, and abilities to make the transformation into the post pandemic environment. 

Twitter is a good example.  Twitter had to identify the full set of “jobs” or products customers expected and would expect in the future.  The company obtained this information by gathering insights from customer interviews, observations of how people engaged with Twitter, and data gathered from website usage.  From this data and information collection, Twitter was able to identify a long list of jobs that were prioritized based on what was more important to the Twitter market.  Twitter then took that list and used criteria such as how widely they were shared by customers, the expected value of solving them, and where Twitter had a compelling and differentiated solution.  Finally, Twitter was transparent in the way it told its workforce what was important:  it communicated the priority jobs throughout the company.  Positions and skillsets had to be identified and aligned to the new “jobs” strategy.  For Twitter to stay relevant, it needs its workforce to understand the customer needs and expectations and the skillsets to meet those needs and expectations.

Another looming shortage are college educated workers.  College especially took off when males were able to get educational deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War era.  But now, maybe 50% who enter college actually graduate.  Women are more likely than men to graduate.  And many are turned off by the possible debt coming out of college which can range in the low six figures (there won’t be any rant about the business of higher education and Congress’ decision not to allow discharge of such debt through bankruptcy).   Industries are now experiencing shortages of engineers, IT professionals, health professionals, and others at that level. 

HR can take a look at a new approach for apprenticeships, which comes from the Swiss model of apprenticeship.  There is now a growing network of white-collar apprenticeship programs for jobs at a number of big employers, including Google, Amazon, and Salesforce.  This approach also fills a DE&I issue of systemic inequities and unconscious bias in hiring and promotions practices. Many organizations who understand this new environment recognize that the candidate search has to be broadened and there is greater recognition that no race, ethnicity, gender, zip code, or diploma has a monopoly on talent.  There are nontraditional talent pipelines ripe for picking, such as disabled, marginalized, and returning citizens. 

As HR looks for solutions to the global war for talent, the great resignation, and the needs of the organization, it has to think outside the box as to how to find talent and how to manage the new talent that could come into the organization.  Talent acquisition is currently the focus, but HR needs to recognize that learning and development should be the number one internal investment today, otherwise long standing organizations will likely either have to merge or be merged because of talent needs. 

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