Workforce Planning: What are the predictions for the post pandemic world?

What will the workforce look like in a post pandemic world? Top consulting firms have made predictions that there will be an increase in remote working, reskilling of employees and growth in the gig economy.

The pandemic has certainly seen an increased emphasis on wellbeing in the workplace. In addition there has been a growth in technology that allows employees to better collaborate remotely.

New business models are rapidly evolving with the pandemic sending a large proportion of the workforce home to work remotely.

Let’s look at all of this in more detail.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 2 – Workforce Planning: A Definition

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Video Transcript

Forecasting the workplace of the future

Hi, Andrew from SACS and welcome to our six video sequence on Workforce Planning for the New Normal.

So in this sequence, we’ll start out with a video, which is about, what is the new normal? Workforce considerations that seem to be part of the process of where we are in this post-COVID world, or perhaps evolving post-COVID world.

We’ll talk about some trends that were happening before COVID and some trends that have been accelerated by COVID.

The second video in the sequence will be a brief introduction to workforce planning. What is workforce planning? We’ll give you a conceptual framework of what workforce planning is trying to achieve.

The third is all about strategy and role clarity. You know, if you want to build a workforce plan, it’s really interesting to be able to determine a workforce plan for what? In other words, if you’ve got a clarity of what your organisation needs to achieve and deliver, of course, you’re going to build a better workforce plan.

So we’ll tell you what we know about the organisational psychology of clarity.

The fourth is about the SACS model of workforce planning and that’s where we will take you through a workforce planning exercise for a theoretical organisation called XYZ Corporation.

And we’ll explain to you the stages that you undertake in a workforce planning process in order to get the greatest deal of benefit out of it.

The fifth is about leadership of workforce planning. In other words, workforce planning is not just a mechanistic process where you forecast the workforce of the future.

It’s actually a leadership development exercise as well. And so it needs to be led well.

And we’ll talk about how to maximise the levels of engagement of staff in this process by virtue of leading the process effectively.

And finally, we’ll finish off in module six about the type of person and that copes best with challenging times.

So six videos, all on the topic of workforce planning for the new normal.

The “New Normal” predictions by top consulting firms

And that really requires us to make some predictions about the new normal.

Now, this is a table (refer to video) which outlines a range of different management consulting firms and what they forecast the new normal is likely to be in this rapidly evolving post-COVID world.

So you’ll see that all of them say that there are going to be significant changes in workforce and work. And in particular, an increase in remote working, re-skilling of employees, growth in the gig economy. And I’ll talk about that in a little bit more detail just in a few slides.

But things like upskilling, things like remote work, things like greater flexibility of how work is done. And certainly that seems to be a trend from right across the world.

The concept of enforcing the situation where people come to an office and work only in that office, that’s a very rapidly receding characteristic.

And certainly the organisations that are winning the war for talent right now, are the ones that are bringing the greatest degree of flexibility to the approach that they bring to getting work done.

Predictions about Work Culture

Culture, organisational culture, lots of focus here from different consulting firms about there will be a greater focus on employee safety and wellbeing.

And certainly that does seem to be the case. I don’t think I’ve ever seen in my entire career such an emphasis on wellbeing.

I’m not sure always that people are aware of what they mean by wellbeing when they say that, but there is a science based approach to wellbeing and I have some separate videos on that topic.

But certainly people are very keen on wellbeing.

They’ve seen that the importance of wellbeing was absolutely crucial during the COVID period and it’s really interesting how that’s persisting as we move out of the COVID world and into a kind of a new normal.

Post Pandemic Technology and Infrastructure

The next one is about technology and infrastructure.

And certainly because of the fact that so much work is done remotely these days, that’s required a rejigging of organisational infrastructure to be able to cope with remote work and things like sharing platforms, SharePoint and those sorts of things have become, have really accelerated in their growth of uptake in organisations so that people can share and work on documents remotely.

Business and Operating Models

Business and operating model.

A range of forecasts here (refer to video), but in particular things like consumer behaviour and certainly an uptake of online shopping has been an observation of everybody.

A number of the consulting firms forecast that there will be a reassuring of business, where a business will be brought back to localities close to head office.

Well, that forecast was made about a year ago now and that doesn’t seem to be holding up. If anything, COVID seems to have made people more broad minded about where their services might come from. I mean, if you can do things digitally, what does it matter if the person who’s providing you a service is in Germany or the office next door. As long as you can find an overlapping time zone that seems to be fine for most people in terms of getting stuff done.

So a range of interesting forecasts about what the workplace of the future will be.

So if we summarise some of these observations, there’s a lot about rapidly evolving business models. In other words, as mobility increases the way that we have done things historically needs to evolve very rapidly and that requires your workforce to evolve very rapidly.

Need for Role Clarity

A focus on role and organisational clarity of purpose.

And certainly as people moved from working in the office to working from home that really shook up the whole question of role clarity.

The job that I’m doing at home is that the same as the job that I was doing in the office? Well, most employees don’t think so.

And certainly there needs to be effort put in to create organisational clarity and we have a video later in this sequence specifically about that.

Technology Competencies and Capabilities

New competencies to enable delivery, such as technology usage.

There’s been a lot of research done about remote working and I’ll be also talking about that in a few slides down the track, but remote work does require different competencies.

The ability of course to use technology is an obvious competency.

But how about the ability to collaborate effectively when you’re not in the same office as your colleagues? That’s a capability which is also something that needs to be learned when people are working in this remote form.

Wellbeing and Employee Resilience

Wellbeing and employee resilience.

Well, not just the wellbeing of employees, but also the leadership skills which cause leaders to be able to lead for wellbeing, a very strong focus.

The competencies of employees to become more resilient and to manage their own wellbeing better and also leadership to do that.

Now I think that one of the things that’s a very key evolving concept in all of this, is that there used to be more of a kind of a custodial perspective of organisations.

We will look after our employees wellbeing. And of course that is important. The organisation needs to take that view, but we are seeing increasingly a much more evidence-based perspective which is a partnership approach.

Yes, we will do what we can to look after your wellbeing but we will also create a situation where you develop your skills in order to be able to support your own wellbeing.

Resilience is not just about saving people, resilience is about creating a situation where people are more independently able to manage their own wellbeing.

A Re-examination of Corporate “Culture”

A re-examination of corporate culture. Now I’ve put the word maybe after that (refer to video).

You know, people talk a lot about corporate culture and I think that their perspective on corporate culture is often very theoretical and vague.

And in fact, we know that people are reflecting on this question of corporate culture, but there’s a very simple contemporary organisational psychology definition of corporate culture.

It’s really the balance of good things you experience at work and the balance of bad things that you experience at work. And if you are lucky enough to be at a workplace where you experience, let’s say six or seven good things for every bad things, that seems to be a positive corporate culture.

So I think that people are reviewing their corporate culture, but the mistake that some are making is that they’re turning it into a very vague conceptual, almost quasi-religious, kind of a thing about the optimum corporate culture. I think you should simplify it and think about how many good experiences we are giving our employees versus how many bad experiences.

Now, how do you tell? Well, of course you ask them and this is simple stuff to measure.

A Shortage of Candidate Talent

And candidate shortage and talent generally.

Certainly, COVID slowed down the movement of candidates around the world.

And in many economies that has meant that people are very short of candidates.

And so candidate attraction is something that we are getting enormous numbers of inquiries about from clients at the moment.

People just can’t find the candidates that they need. And so in this brave new world, candidate attraction and talent availability is going to be a critical issue for organisations across the world.

Evolving models of work delivery. In other words, if you are delivering a service which previously was delivered face to face, but now is delivered online, well, that may mean that you need slightly different employees or employees skilled up in a different way. And that’s where workforce planning comes in.

And it’s also to address issues such as working from home. What capabilities do we need to work effectively from home?

The Increase Trend in WFH

Let’s talk a little bit about working from home.

And so here’s some stats about how working from home has changed (refer to video).

This is from the Productivity Commission in Australia and you see working from home bumbled along in a pretty stable fashion from before 2003 up to 2021, when COVID hit.

And then all of a sudden you have this effect where in Australia, somewhere between 35 and 45% of the workforce was sent to work from home.

Massive change and a massive revolution in the workforces around the world.

People working from home who had never done this before.

Do we have the technology to do it? Do we have the skills to do it? Have we been inducted into how to do this well? So a big challenge for the workforce.

WFH Suitability Varies by Sector and by Job Type

Workforce suitability for working from home varies from sector to sector.

So to use the example of mining, the proportion of people working from home before the pandemic in comparison with in response to the pandemic, it actually dropped slightly but many increased rapidly. So for instance, rental hiring and real estate services 21% jumped up to 34%. If we look at education and training, 24% jumped up to 41%. And for instance, in things like arts and recreational services 7% jumped up to 28%.

Massive increases in the amount of people working from home.

Why? Certain sectors are just more suited to working from home.

It’s often said that it’s very difficult to outsource a haircut.

So the nature of work, particularly if it’s the sort of work that might be called knowledge management work lend itself particularly well to people working from home. If your job is to dig stuff up out of the ground, it’s very difficult to do that from anywhere other than the mine site.

So it’s not surprising that that didn’t respond so significantly to the work from home trend that was introduced by COVID-19. And so working from home by job type, this is also really stark.

You’ll see that professionals tended to work from home much more than, let’s say, a machine operator.

Clerical people could work from home. Managers could work from home, but technician sales, community workers, labourers, didn’t respond anywhere near as much to working from home by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is WFH a Good Thing?

So that really raises an interesting question about working from home.

Is it a good thing? Well, yes, it is.

In fact, if you take 1000 employees and send them to work from home, you’ll find that they are slightly more productive, in general and slightly happier, slightly more engaged in their work.

So it’s a good thing from that point of view.

But it’s not a perfect thing because there are also some negatives and we know that research across the world has shown that there tends to be more blurred boundaries around work and family.

So when you finish your work, you don’t tend to walk away from it in the same way that you would if you’d left an office, got into a bus and went home.

So it’s much more difficult to have the clear boundaries between work and home if you are working from home.

Secondly, too much working from home can lead to worse relationships with colleagues.

In other words, you don’t build that sort of interpersonal relationship that you do if you have the opportunity to witness the non-verbals of other people and thereby bond with them more deeply.

And finally, some people are not suited to working from home.

And so for instance, if you happen to be a strong extrovert and also a little bit emotionally unstable, the sort of person who feels things very deeply, that appears to be almost the worst combination for working from home.

Whereas a person who’s a natural introvert, particularly if they’re an emotionally stable introvert, that seems to be the best combination that empowers already somebody to work effectively from home.

Remote Worker Assessment Tool

There is an opportunity to measure this in people.

SACS has an instrument that we call the Remote Worker Assessment and in effect, what it means is that here are some characteristics that have been shown to be effective for causing a person to be comfortable in working from home, but also productive.

And you’ll see these characteristics in this particular candidate are largely green ticks, which means that the person is judged by this instrument to be largely suitable to work from home.

The Gig Economy

I just really want to talk a little bit about the gig economy.

A number of the forecasting firms that we mentioned earlier say that they expect an upturn in the gig economy.

In fact, the gig economy, at least in Australia and New Zealand, has been vastly overestimated.

And in fact, the evidence is that more people are actually working in jobs, stable jobs for corporations as a proportion of employment than virtually at any other time.

So a guy called Robert Sobyra as part of his PhD, did a bunch of research on this topic, and was able to identify that the concept of the gig economy in Australia at least, is basically a myth.

Because what this shows is that casual work in Australia is it peaked around about 2002. And in fact, in recent times it’s gone nowhere from the point of view of increasing as a proportion of work. And also if we look at self-employment, you’ll see this graph here, and this is again courtesy of Robert Sobyra and his work, self-employment has collapsed.

So the idea is that we’re all going to be drivers for Uber or something like that, or delivering food, well that’s just not born out by the evidence.

In fact, most people are employed and more people are employed in non-casual employment than virtually any other time in the last 20, 25 years.

So the gig economy, I doubt strongly whether that’s going to flourish in response to the COVID-19 thing.

But some other things such as different ways of doing work and flexibility of work location and things like a focus on wellbeing, there is no doubt that these are trends that are likely to stay.

So join us for the next video where we’ll talk a little bit more about workforce planning, specifically what workforce planning is and how it can help you to be ready for the new world of work

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about Workforce Planning for the New Normal:

Part 2 – Workforce Planning: A Definition

And if you’d like some help Workforce Planning for your organisation, contact us about our SACS Model of Workforce Planning.

SACS Consulting