How automation helps you plan tomorrow's workforce

| 17 September 2019

Richard Kershaw, Workforce Planning Partner at Konica Minolta, explores how intelligent automation can help your organisation plan its future workforce with agility and confidence.

Workforce planning is one of the toughest tasks in HR. Ensuring your organisation has the future skills, in the right place, at the right time involves seeing over the horizon and seeing around corners. Plan it accurately and you’ll have the agile, engaged workforce you need to stay one step in front of your competitors and drive growth. Get it wrong and your business could quickly be consigned to history.

So why is workforce planning – both operational and strategic – so difficult? The primary reason is the frantic pace of organisational change. Traditional business operating models that served you so well for so long are redundant. Talent is mobile, it straddles geographic boundaries and is increasingly employed on a contractual basis. In short, talent is more fluid and therefore difficult to predict.

Second, digital transformation makes it very difficult to determine a corporate strategy two years ahead – let alone a people strategy. Technologies like automation, artificial intelligence and robotics are bringing breakthrough change to the workplace, for example, in a way no-one could have imagined five years ago. Indeed, according to Gartner, “By 2022, nearly 80% of organisational skills will have to be reprioritised or revisited because of digital business transformation.“

The latest generation of candidates entering the job market also possess very different values to those that preceded them, making it difficult to predict what the next generation will want. For the first time ever, five generations coexist in the workplace – from traditionalists to Generation Z. For businesses, this presents an unprecedented opportunity to drive innovation by taking advantage of the extensive amount of wisdom, knowledge and fresh perspective in their midst. But it also presents a major challenge: blending disparate groups into cohesive and productive teams.

The war on talent compounds the complexity of forecasting the future workforce. According to the Future of Jobs summary on the World Economic Forum, 36% of business jobs will require ‘complex problem solving’ as a core skill. Every industry is fighting for particular talent – especially data scientists and IT experts.

Finally, there’s STEM. Despite the fact technology is driving the future, too few young people – especially females – are choosing to enter science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) career paths. In Europe, the gap has now reached significant proportions, with an estimated shortfall of 900,000 IT professionals by 2020. Planning your future workforce is strongly influenced by the volume of talent coming down the pipeline.

Workforce planning used to be an inexact science, reliant on historical HR employee data and manual reporting. The toolbox available to identify future workforce needs included regular capability reviews with managers to identify requirements, qualitative analysis of the strategy used by other top-performing organisations, or partnerships with Euro clusters to determine needs.

Intelligent automation supports agile, informed HR planning decisions

Forward-thinking organisations are turning to intelligent automation to support their operational and strategic workforce planning. The availability of big data enables HR professionals to rapidly perform predictive analysis and create ‘what if’ scenarios – for more informed and timely planning. The big data can be used to reliably answer questions such as, ‘How many people will be needed in x business unit in two years’ time’, or ‘What will the demographic profile of our people be in five years from now?’, for example.

Automation can also help you cost-effectively plan for future talent. In the past, when a talent gap was identified, HR would examine the position, analyse the market, and review candidates to fill the future gap. A slow, resource-intensive process. Automation can absorb this task, integrating and processing data such as the cost of hiring candidates, asking salaries of candidates in the talent pool and current employee salary costs. Automation can then model various workforce scenarios, surfacing the insight which suits your planned needs.

Moreover, intelligent automation can also be used to identify scenarios where employees are currently lacking skills and to predict where gaps will occur in the future. Automation can alert managers when a gap is seen in a reporting line and also alert an employee about a critical training course they could take to fill a future gap.

Modelling your ideal workforce is not easy. Intelligent automation can help you plan your workforce with agility and confidence, providing the insight you need to create effective hiring plans, identify gaps and align with your business goals.

Richard Kershaw

Workforce Planning Partner, Konica Minolta

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