Brandon Hall Group asked several organizations at the end of 2021 about their most significant concern for 2022. The answer shared by more than half the companies was the changing demographics of the workforce. The Great Resignation, the rise of the hybrid workforce and the accelerated spread of the war for talent created a perfect storm that resulted in a changed workforce. What is the best way to prepare your organization’s workforce management for this change?
The main challenge to preparing a WFM strategy for the future is the future itself. The best that can be done is educated guesswork. No one could have foreseen the impact of a pandemic in 2019, but that does not mean that every organization had their WFM affected the same way.
Organizations that had proper alignment with a resilient and adaptive WFM strategy fared best and were able to overcome the other big challenge — resources in the form of time, money and people.
The ability to shift from one way of managing a workforce to another in a seamless and relatively painless manner was often the difference between businesses staying solvent or not. The most critical complications involve being prepared for a wide variety of contingencies and seeing what commonalities exist within those complications, such as adaptability, shared skills and digital dexterity.
The results of having an unprepared workforce aren’t always as extreme as the entire business going under, but they may not be far from that. Organizations that are forced to react instead of being proactive will fall behind their competitors.
Those final effects may be long-term, but several short-term consequences can be seen, too: a drop in employee engagement, a rise in attrition and lack of collaboration as everyone tries to protect their place within the business. Whenever there are widespread changes to the workforce, employees are justifiably nervous and giving them open, honest information in real-time will go a long way to alleviating their concerns.
To prepare your organization’s workforce management for the future of work in 2022 and beyond, you must first determine your current state and capabilities. Organizations should address those core questions, along with the following:
- Who in your organization is most likely to be affected by changes in WFM policies and how can you give them the tools to succeed in the changing workplace?
- What data and metrics will your organization use to measure the effects of changes on the workforce and new WFM strategies?
- Who is responsible and accountable for implementing new WFM strategies?
- What areas of the business are currently most affected by changes to the workforce and how can resources be prioritized to improve those areas?
- What tools and technology are available to help measure, analyze and change the WFM strategies in the current and future state?
Be Transparent With Your WFM Activities
Having established that the demographics of the workforce have changed, it’s worth asking what motivates that workforce. One concept that resonates across all aspects of HR is transparency. In fact, when looking at successful efforts in improving WFM strategy, transparency for both employees and managers ranked in the top five.
With more people working from home and with the amount of self-service we are providing to (and expecting from) our workforce, it should come as no surprise that people want information before making decisions.
Giving people the data they need in terms of scheduling, pay and labor spend shows trust and allows employees and managers to be self-sufficient and find value in their day-to-day activities. The workforce is changing but a big part of being adaptive to that change is in creating a workforce that doesn’t rely on top-down directives and instead can decide to make changes based on a rapidly changing external world as needed.
Base Your WFM Strategy Around Your Business Strategy
This may seem obvious, as all HR strategies should be based and aligned with overall business strategies, but the last two years showed that many organizations were unprepared for widespread workforce changes. Those organizations tried to keep WFM policies and procedures in place that were indicative of older business strategies enacted from before the pandemic, rather than seeing how business shifted and following suit accordingly.
If your organization made a shift from providing in-person service to online-only service, for instance, that will mean more changes for the workforce than simply training on new tools. There will need to be different skills-mapping, schedules and shifts to accommodate different time zones and possibly a fresh org chart to reflect new revenue streams and market possibilities.
Be Prepared to Shift to a Centralized or Decentralized Model, If Needed
For many organizations, a centralized or decentralized model is core to their entire identity. There are many organizations with a hybrid HR service delivery model, which extends to how WFM is handled, as well but those organizations are not the ones most at risk for falling behind due to changes in their workforce makeup.
Centralized and decentralized models each have benefits: Decentralized models provide more local control so WFM can be tailored to local needs. Centralization is usually cheaper since it is one group supporting many and helps reinforce consistency throughout the organization.
Both models show their weaknesses in their strengths, though. Centralization doesn’t allow for local WFM needs to be accounted for and decentralization tends to be reactive and without a sense of shared culture. Whichever model you currently have, it should never be off-limits to consider changing based on the business needs of today and the foreseeable future.