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Kirsten Mayer


Senior Vice President, Client Services

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Workforce planning: how to create a more agile recruitment and talent strategy

Change is the new constant, so adapting your recruitment and talent strategy to accommodate this is vital.

If 2020 taught business leaders anything, it’s that things can very suddenly change beyond recognition. We cannot always predict what the future will look like for any business, but we can build agile, versatile teams that will respond to whatever demands the future may bring.

Reskilling the workforce to meet changing demands is a challenge, but the process starts by building a talent pipeline fit for learning and change. 

It’s forecasted that 30 – 40% of all workers in developed countries may need to move into new occupations, or at least upgrade their skill sets significantly, while skills that are already in short supply are set to become even more scarce. Candidates hired today will need to adapt to new demands, so more focus should be placed on their ability to learn new skills, rather than only considering their current ones.

The digital skills gap

As digitisation becomes an increasingly important part of the way companies work efficiently, demand for the talent that is able to drive forward digital projects – including cloud computing, data analytics, app development and automation – has consistently outstripped the supply.

In 2017, the European Commission claimed that 37% of labour force participants do not have basic digital skills and companies lack the more advanced specialised skills needed for successful adoption of digital technologies. Since 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the way we work. Not only did March 2020 see a short-notice implementation of remote working for most of the global population, it similarly sped up the process of digitisation of analogue processes.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has provided a rapid acceleration of both digitisation and the need for employees to learn basic digital skills, but since there is no reason to believe there are more advanced specialists than before, this is likely to put further pressure on the demand for digital skills.

Hiring the team of tomorrow

An agile workforce strategy looks to create the workforce of the future. Hiring managers should focus on candidates with a track record of adapting, learning and thriving in challenging environments to help futureproof your workforce against the changes that you cannot predict. By building and retaining talent that’s fit for change, your entire organisation will be more resilient, remaining on the front foot by out-manoeuvring competitors.

There are few industries where this is more relevant than life sciences. Last year saw the sector in the spotlight as teams worked to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, where sudden changes in organisational priorities required teams to rapidly shift focus to leading edge technologies.

A seat at the table

If business leaders want to take the long view with hiring strategies, then a company’s talent acquisition team needs to be involved at conception. Too often, hiring managers are expected to implement an already formed strategy, but a more positive approach would be to involve your company’s talent experts earlier. Sharing strategic decisions and allowing talent leaders to contribute ensures that there is access to the talent needed to meet business needs.

A progressive way of driving this change would be to ensure that key business interests such as talent acquisition, diversity equity and inclusion (DE&I), succession planning, company culture and staff retention are represented by the relevant talent experts at board level. By diversifying the expertise represented on a company board, strategies can be more holistic.

Early talent

Developing an internal candidate pipeline for leadership positions starts with making positive recruitment choices for your early talent hires. If you are aiming to develop early or mid-career employees into tomorrow’s leaders rather than having to rely on external succession planning, it is vital to develop a coherent, consistent company culture. Actively establishing your employer brand and ensuring your leadership team is made up both of long-serving and new team members, ensures a flow of new and innovative ideas that is anchored to your company DNA.

Reskilling the workforce to meet changing demands is a challenge, but the process starts by building a talent pipeline fit for learning and change. An agile workforce strategy that hires candidates that can meet tomorrow’s demands – combined with a commitment to retaining and developing talent that puts agility and adaptability at the fore – is necessary to help businesses stay ahead of the curve.

Interested in this topic? Read Workforce planning in a crisis: why HR needs to prioritise planning ahead.

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Kirsten Mayer

Senior Vice President, Client Services

Read more from Kirsten Mayer

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