#NZLEAD RECAP: Workforce planning


Thank you to all who participated in #NZLEAD on Thursday night when we spoke about workforce planning.  Workforce Planning is such a broad area that connects with many difference concepts. It’s hard to narrow the topic down to just four questions – but the conversation was great!

We started with a discussion about the changing nature of work – “Is the world of work really changing?  How relevant are terms like ‘global connectivity’, ‘contingent workforce’, etc?

@blackbirdsthree kicked off the discussion with a recognition that the world has already changed, and we’re often playing catchup, a theme that was followed throughout the conversation.

@alisonhallnz, @matt_pontin, @tashtasticnz, and @zoemounsey added some key points:

1.       The fast change in the technology world is challenging to keep up with. (@AlisonHallNZ’s tweet)

2.       This change is changing entire business models to “just in time”, which affects our traditional approaches to the workforce.  This is one of the reasons we’re seeing the rise of contingent workforces, as an attempt to increase workforce agility. (@matt_pontin’s tweet)

3.       HR needs to continuously move to ensure we reap the benefits of the changes that are occurring, but it’s hard to keep up (@TashTasticNZ’s tweet@zoemounsey’s tweet); and

4.       In this world of rapid change, the “old ways” are no longer the most effective – we need to reinvent ourselves in order to stay relevant.

The dichotomy between global connectivity and ‘physical presence’ was one that generated a lot of conversation. @nzheadhunter pointed out that there is a conflict between remote and office work and that, as connected as we are, physical presence is still important to many.

@PaulJacobs4Real talked about the change from ‘company’ to ‘community’, and in fact this could be a topic in itself (pick up a copy of Makers by Chris Anderson for some excellent examples). Also, @PowerHour60 talked about globalisation as the “new normal”, even for small companies.

Contingent workers, their place in the culture of an organisation, and the extent of their engagement with their employers was a topic that generated a lot of discussion as well.

Question 2, was the extent to which connectivity has changed the world of work.  Some concerns here raised about the effect on work/life balance…

…but also some discussion around ‘working from home’ and contracting being a return to the pre-industrial world of work:

There was a lot of conversation (and agreement) around question 3 and the need for tailored, rather than “one size fits all” approaches to connecting HR practices to the performance of employee, and a collective cringing at the term “best practice”…

…but also a recognition that HR is not always enabled to tailor their approaches by the organisation:

The final question for the night was around ‘strategic workforce planning’.  There were some great remarks here – not all of them agreeing that workforce planning was delivering value, even if there was a recognition of the potential value:

Shane Granger (who I must thank for making the original suggestion that NZLEAD do the Workforce Planning topic) took things from a different angle (a 90 degree one):

…And Rashka offered a ray of hope, and some more definitions, approaches, and words of caution emerged:


Thanks again to @tashtasticNZ for running the discussion, and to both Tash and Amanda for inviting me to contribute.  Finally, thankyou all for your insights – I’ve certainly taken away some things to think about, and I hope you have too.


#NZLEAD PREVIEW: Workforce Planning


The world of work is changing rapidly, and organisations that are able to adapt to changing conditions are the ones that position themselves for success.  Megatrends like big data, crowd sourcing, global connectivity, the death of 9-to-5, personal manufacturing, robotics, the rise of the contingent workforce, and many more are changing the nature of the work we do, and how we do it.

Let’s think about some of the dramatic changes that are happening in our economy today – our wealth is growing, and the nature of work changing, faster than during the industrial revolution.  Barriers to work, both artificial and real, are falling away, disrupting entire industries.  If you have (or had) “Agent” in your job title, you’ve already seen it.  The complete disruption of the travel industry by online bookings is an obvious example, but we’re also seeing recruitment go through similar disruption.  Recruitment Agencies who continued to rely on their extensive candidate database as their point of difference failed.  All of that information is online now, available to anyone, and updated constantly.

Companies today need to, and do, continually re-invent their business models in order to survive in the face of changing markets and technology.  But we in HR don’t always follow suit.  While our organisations pursue differentiation, many in HR pursue “best practice”.  It’s a contradiction that can’t be sustained.  We need to both tailor our programs to our organisations (and the roles within them), and to assess their value.  A case in point – this week I was speaking at an event in Melbourne to an audience of around 75.  About half of those were using some form of psychometric assessment when selecting candidates.  Only one had checked whether the tests that they were using actually predicted success for their organisation.  That one person? He’s wrapping up his PhD in Organisational Psychology.  Connecting our recruitment practises to the performance of employees selected?  It’s a no-brainer.  And it’s easy to do.

Some of New Zealand’s leading public and private organisations are turning to Strategic Workforce Planning to connect each of their HR initiatives to one another, and to their organisational strategy.  Done well, this uncovers the value of each initiative, and pro-actively positions the workforce to deal with the changing internal and external environments affecting the workforce today and well into the future.  To describe it as having “The Right Skills in The Right Place at The Right Time” oversimplifies it, but at its’ essence, that’s what workforce planning is designed to do.  The real challenge is in understanding what those skills and places will be 3, 5, or 10 years from now.  To pro-actively position HR to lead your organisation to long-term, sustainable success is within every HR professional’s reach.  After all, we’ve been trained in, and charged with the responsibility of, looking after what most organisations call their “greatest asset”.

The questions for this week are:

Q1) Is the world of work really changing? How relevant are terms such as ‘global connectivity’, ‘contingent workforce’?

Q2) How has connectivity changed the world of work? Or not changed it? Is the term ‘agent’ still relevant?

Q3) How do you connect your HR practices to the performance of your employees? What are the successes and challenges in doing this?

Q4) What is your understanding of ‘strategic workforce planning’? How are you applying it?