Covid-19 is having such major impacts on our world of work that business leaders, politicians and the media have no choice but to focus on the here and now. For organisations trying to plan their workforce for the future, it may feel impossible to look further ahead than a week at a time as things are changing so rapidly.
Despite this, it is essential that employers take certain measures to build a workforce which will fair in the current climate and emerge into a healthier and more balanced world of work in the near future.
Our world of work is shifting
There is plenty of advice circulating online about how to engage and maintain your workforce while they are working remotely, which has certainly been a new challenge for many employers. However, as lockdown restrictions start to relax, we need to move beyond this and focus our attention on planning a workforce for a world of work which is shifting.
While it’s difficult to determine exactly what this shift will look like, the general consensus is that it will consist of teams working from offices as well as remotely under different schedules and timetables. To handle this hybrid arrangement which again is unique for many, employers need to ensure that agility is at the heart of their workforce plan, so they are able to adapt and pivot where necessary.
Putting agile people in different places at different times will therefore be central to successful workforce planning for the foreseeable future. Without this, how can you be sure your team and your organisation will weather this storm and thrive in the everchanging normal?
Workforce planning is a priority and a process
Workforce planning and strategy seems to feature on every board room agenda, yet too often it isn’t effectively executed at a strategic level and can fall by the wayside. Even though no doubt it’s taken seriously by your organisation, now more than ever it needs to be considered a top priority.
At its heart, workforce planning is about consistently aligning the needs of your organisation with strategically managing your people. And as your needs are most likely about keeping your organisation afloat during what is a challenging economic environment now, workforce planning needs to take place as a matter of very high importance.
It might be helpful to also think about your workforce planning as a process, not a ‘to-do’. Remember it doesn’t need to be complex as it will need to be adjusted as and when required.
Getting started can be simple
As a simple first step, arrange regular, documented check-ins with your business unit leaders. Many businesses have already put this in place as a response to the impacts of Covid-19, but ensure this is maintained as we undergo the next shift and workforce planning is a key priority of these check-ins. The process can be as simple as a live document update every other week.
Essentially the point of this is to communicate a concrete picture of what you’re dealing with from a workforce planning point of view so you can work with your organisation to make informed talent supply chain decisions. Even though things may be constantly changing, you need to have these documented sessions at a minimum to communicate and address this.
Establish a focus group
Once you have the above in place, establish a group dedicated to workforce planning on an ongoing basis. Having this group in place will help you communicate the most essential information in these check-ins.
The responsibility of this group should be to identify a range of resourcing solutions in light of fluctuating demands, productivity expectations, access to skills and of course any change in lockdown regulations. Developing scenarios and stress-testing your workforce against these variables should be a focus of this group, so you can then develop well thought-out solutions to handle different situations as they arise.
You’ll then need your focus group to track the signals which indicate that the situation is changing. This will then mean your organisation and its workforce are primed to act, rather than react to a situation which you’re not prepared for.
Look purposefully towards the future
Only after you’ve made a strong start and established a focus group, you’re ready to look to the future beyond the immediate crisis and think about what it means for your business. As mentioned, although no-one knows exactly what this looks like, having an informed sense of the here and now as well as a plan to handle different possible scenarios should give you good grounds to project how your business might fair in the long run.
To get you thinking about this, consider questions like:
- What will have changed in the world of work forever?
- What new ways of working have we established in the wake of the crisis?
- Which of these have been successful and should we maintain these as things normalise?
- If we make any permanent changes, what will this mean for our workforce?
Communication will be an integral part of any projections into the future – those who work with you and for you will want to know that they are a priority in your organisation’s future. While you don’t need to have all the answers, be transparent about the broad direction your organisation is travelling in.
Whilst there is virtually no certainty about what will come next for the world of work, we do know that things are shifting and that they will continue to do so. The skills that you need today will not be the same as those you need tomorrow, so responsive and comprehensive workforce planning will be key to helping you navigate the now as well as thrive in the everchanging normal.
Visit our new ways of working resources hubfor guides on video interviewing, onboarding remotely and which tools to use and when.