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The HR Superpower for 2020 and Beyond: Workforce Shaping

Posted by Mathew French

7 July 2020

To all the HR Professionals out there - hands up which ones of you have had to make changes to your ways of working and employee cohort since the start of 2020? For those of you who didn't put your hand up, you're in the minority. If the events that ushered in this decade have taught us anything, it's that businesses needs systems and processes in place that enable it to bend and flex under duress. If the art of workforce shaping isn't on your radar yet, it should be. In this week's blog we explore what KPMG has nominated as being the 'defining challenge' of 2020 and beyond. This is the future of HR best practice.

Each year, KPMG produces an annual 'The Future of HR' Report. 2020 results identify four types of 'shaping' critical to future success:

  1. Shaping the workforce for the future: They recognise that existing workforce structures are being disrupted by new technology and business models, and they are seizing the opportunity to reshape the workforce and gain the full benefits of humans and machines working together.

  2. Shaping a purpose-led culture: They understand that HR plays a vital role in shaping and maintaining a culture aligned with their business strategies and higher-level purpose.

  3. Shaping the employee experience: They utilise techniques underpinned by design thinking to address the “moments that matter” to employees and understand that this mirrors the same core principles needed for customer centricity and experience design.

  4. Shaping decisions about people and the workforce by using insights from data: They maximise the power of data science to generate predictive and actionable insights for the whole organisation, and they are investing accordingly.

The Art of Workforce Shaping

Before the pandemic had even thrown a spanner in the works it was already clear from their research that workforce shaping was the big ticket item for HR Professionals. What does that mean exactly? 

KPMG defines it as:

  • Taking a scenario-based approach to defining the required workforce in 5–8 years’ time.

  • Understanding how digital disruption and AI will change the overall shape, size, composition, and skills in the workforce and how humans and machines will work together to drive business value and a high-performing workforce.

If you want to take a deep dive into the human-automation collaboration, take a look at the blog series we did about it last year.

Here's what else they uncovered as part of their 2020 research:

  • Over half (56 percent) of HR respondents agree that preparing the workforce for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and related technologies will be the biggest challenge for the HR function.

  • Three-quarters (76 percent) of what they call 'Pathfinding HR organisations' agree that HR needs actively to challenge the future workforce composition (who to buy, build, borrow, bot) in order to meet the future needs of their organisations.

  • To manage the impact of AI (and related technologies) on the workforce, 2 in 3 (66 percent) of HR executives are prioritising upskilling of the workforce.

KPMG Workforce Composition
What Tools Do You Need for Workforce Shaping?

Many organisations were caught short by circumstances beyond their control when the pandemic hit. The workplace and the workforce literally changed overnight, but how do you manage (and process) those changes efficiently?

If you didn't have digital systems and automated processes already in place, managing the (re)shaping your workforce would have been nigh on impossible using paper, spreadsheets and email.

Outlined below are just a few examples of all the different touchpoints across the employee lifecycle where HR Professionals were likely to have been called on (re)shape during the last few months:

  • Contracts.

  • Performance management.

  • Learning and development.

  • Employee and multiple role management.

  • Employee engagement.

  • Time management.

  • Time-off authorisation.

  • Change requests.

  • Pay grades.

  • Remuneration modelling.

  • Payroll integration.

  • Cost centre management.

  • Exit interviews.

  • Offboarding.

When thinking about scenario modelling for both the immediate and longer-term future, it is going to be virtually impossible to do such modelling without automated tools. You need to be able to use your current (and historical) data to slice and dice what the future might look like under a range of different circumstances (or with a range of different employees and employment types).

However, there are still many organisations, small to mid-sized businesses in particular, that are yet to embark on a digital transformation, or if they have, they are yet to unlock the full potential of cloud technology.

Adopting the latest technology, but it’s another to make it bend to your will so that it does what you want it to. For example, some organisations purchase HR technology that gives them very limited configuration options and end up shaping themselves to fit the limits of their HR software. Smart organisations look for #HRtech that is fully configurable and decide to make best use of the technology they’ve paid for by bending it to their will so that the technology meets the unique needs for their organisation. But not all #HRtech is made qual, so you need to make sure that any technology, HR (or otherwise) has the built in HR software configuration options YOU need. If you want to find out more about the importance of software configurability, check out this HR Blog from a couple of weeks ago.

The Time Is Now To Build Your Workforce Shaping Muscle

Workforce shaping as an entirely new discipline that builds your capacity to respond to continuing disruption. Devoting time and resources to crafting a new mindset and actions isn't just a nice to have. It is essential. KPMG sees 'pathfinding HR organisations'  investing heavily in workforce shaping roles and believe this is one of the skills/capabilities needed by the HR function. How does that look 'in action'?

  • It requires the acknowledgement and understand that workforce shaping starts from future business scenarios and then 'works back.' Traditional workforce planning starts with the existing workforce and moves forward in time. This tends to anchor the outcomes and 'answers' in the present model of work. That approach will miss the enormous levels of disruption and potential productivity gains driven by AI and things like a global pandemic.

  • Focusing on upskilling the workforce and ensuring they have the right capabilities to work in the future-state environment. Upskilling goes hand in hand with workforce shaping, and the scale of learning and development effort should not be underestimated.

  • Maximising the success of workforce shaping through collaboration with C-suite leadership, as they should be the ultimate owners of the outcomes and the actions arising.

  • Establishing regular refreshes of workforce shaping scenarios through considering what the organisation and workforce could look like and could be capable of achieving in the future.

Does your business have the right tools in place to (re)shape your workforce? If not, you need #HRtech that makes it possible digitise and automate all your HR admin so that you can manage your workforce shaping quickly and easily.

To find out more, simply download the e-Guide we've created about finding efficiencies in times of change through HR technology.

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Topics: HR software configuration, Workforce shaping, #hrtech

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