Workforce planning in the new normal: What’s changed?

10 July 2020

Jenine Waters, National Leader, People Advisory |
Joe Occhino, Associate Director, People Advisory |

Organising staff to return to work may seem like an important, almost refreshing step after Australia’s strict lockdowns, but getting this wrong could have lasting ramifications on the business.

In our audio series Rethink People - National Leader, People Advisory Jenine Waters and Associate Director, People Advisory Dr. Joe Occhino, discussed key workforce planning considerations for leaders with staff returning to work.

So what should you know?

Considerations for returning to work

COVID-19 has been an accelerator for all businesses, with some changing more in the last few months than they have in the last few decades. As a result, behaviours and attitudes in the workforce have shifted, and so going back to business as usual may not be a recipe for success.

Imagine the impact it would have on engagement if staff who have been successfully working remotely, and have done well with regards to their productivity, are then asked to return back and sit at their desk. It can send mixed messages or show a lack of trust.

While this is just one example, it’s vital that organisations recognise that if they try to push themselves back to business as usual without understanding what they have learned and how things have changed, it can be a disconnecting message for staff and this may cause talent retention issues down the track.

Workforce planning for the new normal

Most leaders say they do workforce planning, but when you delve deeper it tends to be about aligning FTE to budget and not much more. This is another area that is worth rethinking.

The future is here, and that means it has and will continue to change organisations’ workforce capabilities. Leaders need to think not about today, but about tomorrow, and the next five to 10 years down the track. What is your capability now? What might it look like in five years’ time? How do you plan for that? Are you going to build that capacity internally? Are you going to borrow it, or buy it?

Planning for new skills

Another thing to remember is that your organisation may have evolved, perhaps even pivoted completely as so many have done to survive. In this new world where you may have new target customers, new products going to market, a new business model, new skillset planning should be considered

Questions to ask include, what are the skill sets and capabilities you’re going to need for the future? What will future talent expect? These must factor into your plans.

Tapping the contingent workforce

One final thing to think about from a workforce planning perspective is the contingent workforce, that is, contractors and other workers whom you turn to when required.

COVID-19 has left many without employment, and this will likely cause a boom in the gig market. If all of these individuals are looking for snippets of work, there’s a huge opportunity for organisations to capture new and innovative talent - an important factor to plan for so that you’re ready to take advantage when opportunities arise

Keeping up with competitors

With so much change occurring, there will be leaders and laggards. The problem with change for organisations that don’t want it is that it happens whether you move with the flow or not. Reporters and influencers are going to talk about exciting new developments and employees around Australia will see - and desire - these changes for themselves.

Sometimes it’s a risk to be at the forefront of change, but wait too long and you may fall behind.

However, we know that change is difficult and just because your competitors are becoming more flexible or offering four-day weeks doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford to, either.

Need help?

If you need help to Rethink your future business plans, our BDO experts are available to help you define ‘what’s next’.

Contact Us