Volatility has become a fact of life. From pandemic shut-downs to supply chain hurdles, the past two years have forced organizations to become more agile than ever in an attempt to respond to unexpected changes as they happen.
Business uncertainty about sales revenue growth skyrocketed from 2.69% in January 2020 to 6.40% in May 2020 and stayed over 4% through July 2022.
As pandemic fears wane, organizations continue to shift in response to unprecedented resignations, talent wars, and fear of an economic crisis. No rulebook exists for navigating a hiring boom in a shrinking economy with inflationary forces and rising interest rates. Ultimately, leaders rely on their existing data while recognizing that the roller coaster of constant change might take them in another direction.
The Great Resignation continues as one in five workers intend to leave their jobs in 2022.
Change continues to challenge organizations, but it’s especially tough on workforce planning professionals who are charged with ensuring companies have the right employees to meet current and future business needs. A flexible workforce allows companies to pivot in response to change, but only if they can harness the right talent. Start with these five best workforce planning practices to prepare your current workforce for the future, no matter what it brings.
1. Redeploy Current Staff
Hiring new employees costs companies twice as much as retaining the staff they already have. But in volatile economic times, executives restructure operations. They focus on automation and often eliminate positions.
When possible, redeploy employees to apply their labor and skills to new roles. Workers can bypass certain training, and companies can keep their existing staff along with all the institutional knowledge they’ve accumulated along the way.
2. Reskill and Upskill
Other employees won’t have needed skills as operations shift. But with worker shortages, it’s not always possible to tap new talent. Besides, having a specialized worker base doesn’t build the flexibility companies need to meet the challenge of ongoing volatility.
Reskilling and upskilling are retention strategies, just like redeployment. But in this case, companies invest in employees while gaining the additional skills they need to fulfill new roles. And why wouldn’t they? It costs $4,129 to hire a new worker, and newcomers will need to acquire company experience that insiders already have.
3. Plan Your Scenarios
Scenario planning involves making roadmaps for hypothetical circumstances, so organizations can implement new plans quickly when a foreseen situation arises. Using extended timelines, companies can forecast and analyze potential future scenarios.
Scenario planning doesn’t require developing tools to predict the future by anticipating economic turmoil or technological breakthroughs. Companies need to implement alternative plans only when they see changes emerging. For instance, in 2020, executives imagined one scenario in which governments contained COVID-19 and another in which outbreaks recurred. The economic difference was $5 trillion in lost U.S. gross domestic product. Scenario planning is successful because companies can develop approaches for multiple potential realities.
4. Use People Analytics
Whether you call it talent, workforce, or people analytics, use the data you have to gain insights into your talent and meet employees’ needs. Organizations collect data around human resources (HR) domains — from training to recruiting, diversity, and retention. Yet, just 34% of organizations use their people analytics tools for workforce planning.
Use predictive people analytics. First, it saves time because HR professionals can quickly recognize and address the best ways to drive profit. It can also improve productivity, keeping workers more engaged. Organizations can make changes that support a resilient workplace as they come to understand what employees need, even in a shifting landscape.
5. Support Your Employees and Build Trust
Economic volatility takes a toll on employees. It’s associated with lower engagement, motivation, and impacted job performance — and that’s when employees stay on the job. Others look for opportunities elsewhere, leaving skill gaps in their wake.
Recognizing how employees perceive a volatile environment ensures HR professionals concentrate on the facets of well-being that matter most. It allows for better communication about operational decisions and more opportunities to facilitate higher employee satisfaction, so companies aren’t scrambling to retain talent while struggling to remain profitable.
Triumph Over Volatility
Getting the right workers with the perfect skills in their ideal roles is a challenge, even in a perfectly predictable world. The difficulty is much greater when companies can’t rely on past data to show them the way. In today’s volatile environment, they need more guidance, better analytics, and more intelligent use of data, along with creative ways to support their people. While building a flexible workforce takes human power, technology is a crucial factor that can bridge the gap between the current workforce and an uncertain future.
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