HR Leads Business

Sep 6, 2021 | Amy S. Dufrane, Ed.D., SPHR, CAE, CEO of HRCI

Aligning Workforce Strategies With Business Objectives in the New Normal

We’re finally figuring out the “new normal”; apparently, it’s a state of constant change. To adapt to it, executives are relying heavily on HR. HR must lead workforce planning and redesign while remaining ready for the next evolution.

On a recent episode of Alchemizing HR, we invited Jonathan Pearce, GPHR, Deloitte’s Workforce Strategies Leader, to share some of the trends he’s seeing in human capital management. Among the most intriguing: more investment from the C-suite in workforce planning. “One of the interesting things we found last year,” Pearce said, “was a real uptick in business leaders wanting to engage in this conversation.”

Here’s how HR can lead the process of aligning workforce strategies with business objectives in the new normal.

Rearchitect the Work

Some feared the shift to more flexible remote work options during the pandemic would be damaging, even devastating. In fact, U.S. businesses saw their highest increase in productivity in years. Part of this could be because employers demanded more from their employees in an uncertain environment, Pearce says. But much of the productivity uptick is a result of increased flexibility in work processes.

The pandemic demonstrated that leaning into worker choice and worker empowerment can help employees become more productive. HR leaders should be more focused on reimagining work processes than simply “optimizing” them. We have to think about people first and develop technology to serve human needs. HR can collaborate with other departments to design technology to help people do what they do best.

Unleash the Workforce

There’s been a lot of movement geographically now that many employees have the power to work remotely. But there’s a lot of movement in and out of organizations, too. A recent survey found roughly 40% of workers are considering quitting their jobs.

To retain employees, we have to make their future with the company more attractive. This means HR leaders becoming more in tune with what employees actually want. We need to provide better opportunities for mobility and empower better flexibility for when, where and how work happens.

Legacy work models focus on recruiting, deploying and retaining talent. But we need to shift our thinking to accessing, curating and engaging the workforce. Workforce management technology helped AstraZeneca pioneer a more agile way of working, Pearce says. The company was able to access qualified talent across the organization to expedite its work on the vaccine.

Adapt the Workplace

To align workforce strategies with business objectives, we need to change how we think about the work environment, too. The shift to more remote and hybrid work is changing how we use the physical workspace. The office should become less like a fortress and more like a concourse, Pearce says, with people moving through and around it.

Of course, right now the very meaning of “workplace” is evolving. Traditionally, we think of a physical location. The new workplace has to blend this with digital environments. It’s up to HR to redesign what the workplace looks like and to optimize its use in the new normal.

Again, the underlying challenge of the new normal is recognizing that change will continue. HR leaders need to take the steps to make the most of today while remaining ready for the additional necessary adjustments for aligning workforce strategies with business objectives.