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Why now is the perfect time to plan your workforce of the future

COVID-19 Restoring Stability

Future of Work|Talent|Employee Insights
COVID 19 Coronavirus

September 30, 2020

What can organisations do now to secure a positive future for their workforce?

When COVID-19 was first declared a global pandemic in March 2020, the future of work suddenly became unclear. Lockdowns were put in place, working from home became the new normal for many and virtual quizzes became the new Friday night social. Over the last six months many have taken actions to reduce costs and change the way work is performed.

Through taking these actions, companies have not only been impacted at an organisational level, but their employees and the potential future talent pool have also been affected. As lockdowns and ways of working are starting to stabilise, where does this leave the current workforce and its future?

Building on our COVID-19 Pulse Survey conducted in April, we reached out to HR leaders to understand the impact of COVID-19 on work, rewards and employee experience through our 2020 Actions to Restore Stability Survey. From this survey, one point is very clear – almost all companies have made changes that will ultimately affect their workforce in terms of size, skills and ways of working.

What skills will your workforce need to thrive?

Our survey findings suggest that over two thirds of organisations have laid off employees in some capacity and have frozen or reduced hiring, with nearly one third of organisations engaged in or considering an organisation-wide restructure. Therefore, the current talent and skills pool available to organisations may be severely depleted when trying to restore stability to pre-COVID levels of performance.

organisations have already changed their policies to encourage more remote working

So, what can organisations do to help?

Organisations can start by identifying what skills they need and reviewing the current skills and capabilities within their organisation, identify gaps and plan their workforce of the future. It seems some organisations have not yet aligned their succession and career planning to their new work priorities, with around one in four respondents highlighting their succession planning as not aligned and over a third not yet aligning their career paths and planning. The skills that organisations now need may differ to the skills they thought they needed pre-COVID 19.

With the rapid uptake of digitisation in many organisations, a whole new set of skills are needed in this space at a much quicker rate and in greater numbers than previously planned. From our survey findings, again one in four organisations have not yet determined what reskilling and upskilling programmes will be necessary to support new ways of working as we emerge from COVID-19. Therefore, for many organisations, there’s a great opportunity to start identifying what skills are currently within the business, any skill adjacencies or gaps, and to find out which individuals could potentially be reskilled or upskilled the quickest. Reviewing the current workforce will become critically important when returning to a ‘new normal’.

Are you ready to take advantage of an expanding remote working talent pool?

With the rapid uptake of digitisation in many organisations, a whole new set of skills are needed.

But what will a ‘new normal’ look like to organisations? Our survey finds, over half of full-time employees are working remotely or from home. Post-COVID 19, respondents are expecting the current figure of remote workers to reduce to half of current levels, but this is still almost seven times more than this time last year. To accompany the current and expected future rise in remote working, organisations will now need to incorporate remote working into their workforce planning for the future.

Our survey tells us that since the change to remote working, over one in five organisations have already changed their policies to encourage more remote working, and it seems three out of five organisations are planning and considering developing policies and providing tools and resources for long term remote working for employees. Organisations will now need to be proactively incorporating flexible and remote working, not only including this as part of their workforce planning, but also through the use of supporting policies and procedures.

From an employee’s perspective, their experience of work has now changed forever. According to our Global Employee COVID-19 Pulse Survey conducted in July, almost three out of four employees would now prefer to continue to work at home and not return to office locations. With a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion, employee choice and employee experience will become more important than ever. From an organisation’s perspective, increased emphasis on remote working has the potential to expand the talent pool available to immeasurable amounts. If individuals are working remotely then all they may need to do their job is have access to the internet and the right tools and devices. Remote working offers many opportunities for organisations and employees.

Planning for the future of work

When planning for the future, it is vital that employers identify the skills they will need and evaluate the current capabilities, locations and working styles of their post-COVID 19 workforce. With a full understanding of the current organisation landscape, workforce and strategy planning becomes much easier and employers can approach it from an organisational viewpoint, whilst also keeping the employee at the forefront of their minds.

At Willis Towers Watson, we are here to help organisations plan their workforces of the future and support them through their journey. We can work with you to identify the skills you need as you start to stabilise and grow, assess where your skills currently lie against this profile, and seek employees’ views on what they want from the organisation going forward.

By collecting this data, we can then work together with you to plan an effective workforce planning strategy from both a strategic and skills point of view, but also operationally, through policies, procedures and employee listening strategies.


Andy Reid

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