Faced with uncertain access to labour and the need to reskill workers in the coming years, how can organisations take a more holistic approach to workforce planning? Richard Schofield from Alexander Mann Solutions explains the benefits of such an approach.
As if the Brexit forecasts for trade and wages weren’t depressing enough, UK productivity levels continue to be a problem, with output per hour worked still trailing behind pre-financial crisis levels.
Experts have floated myriad theories as to why UK productivity hasn’t grown as expected since the end of the last recession, with a shortfall in skills, under-investment and inaccurate measurement all being put forward as probable causes.
It has also been suggested that companies have “hoarded labour” and essentially clung on to unproductive employees through a fear of having to re-hire in a tight labour market.
However, businesses can boost efficiencies through adopting a more holistic approach to workforce strategies to ensure there are no skills gaps and – crucially – no skills surplus.
Raising skills levels
The complex reasons behind Britain’s persistent underperformance may be up for debate, but there is no escaping the fact that human resources and business productivity are intrinsically linked.
The CIPD recently reported that the UK is facing a labour “supply shock” with the number of non-UK workers in employment falling by almost 60,000 over the 12 months to June 2018. There has never been a better time to boost labour efficiencies.
Last year, the OECD calculated that raising UK skill levels on a best practice basis would improve UK productivity by at least 5%.
With this in mind, focusing on developing existing teams should have an impact on output. Similarly, improved levels of employee wellbeing are also proven to enhance efficiencies.
Wellbeing and performance
According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, wellbeing is strongly associated with a range of individual, organisational and societal benefits, including improved productivity: with 86% of UK business leaders noting the importance of wellbeing as a driver of productivity.
Research from PwC, meanwhile, has found that 83% of workers feel that their wellbeing influences performance.
In order to truly ensure that workforces are firing on all cylinders, however, HR strategists must not only ensure that every employee is engaged and reaching their full potential in their current role, but also that entire teams are built for optimum efficiency.
According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of executives believe that poor talent planning had impacted their company’s ability to meet business objectives.
The concept of total talent management ultimately boils down to joined-up thinking around strategic workforce planning, which takes into account dependent, independent and robot workers.
The capabilities of today’s people analytics tools enable business leaders to map workers across an entire organisation globally, as well as external skills availability, so they can map and organise resources most effectively.
By viewing workforces in this way, current and future talent gaps can be spotted and managed easily – whether that be through traditional hiring, calling on flexible talent, reskilling or upskilling existing employees so that they can be redeployed within the business or exploring which tasks can be automated to free up human talent.
This exercise also enables business leaders to determine and address where there is skills overlap, which can zap overall productivity.
Rigid job specifications and prescriptive working arrangements have historically meant that employers have been forced to hire individuals who may be a good fit for a business – but who are unlikely to meet its needs perfectly.
However, we must also accept that the industrial model of nine-to-five with a few weeks’ holiday no longer cuts it for a lot of people.
As such, in order to secure the skills they need at every level, businesses must become more flexible around their offerings to candidates.
In the future, finding a job will be like booking a holiday on Expedia: jobseekers will be offered suggestions based on their skills and availability, but will ultimately be gifted the scope to build their own role.
This, in turn, will allow employers to create a “talent jigsaw”, where gaps in knowledge and experience are plugged snugly – without any skills excess – to boost business productivity and profitability.