Workforce transformation is the method of improving workforce skills, tools, and abilities to keep up with the constant changes in an organization’s business strategy. Workforce transformation imperatives are broadly categorized in the four areas of innovation readiness, improving competitive stature, environmental impact, and employee self-fulfillment.
Workforce transformation today is largely driven by the rapid shift to a work-from-home (WFH) environment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent VMware/Vanson Bourne study found that 89 percent of companies had at least half of their workforce working remotely during 2020, and that 57 percent of companies expect to have at least half of their workforce working remotely in 2021 – an increase of 23 percent from 2019.
Workforce transformation, an outgrowth of the latest industrial revolution fueled by cloud, mobility, and a need for more automated, data-driven insights, was accelerated by COVID-19. This has put further strains on the workforce since new skills are in demand and unemployment is near historical lows for knowledge workers.
Workforce transformation is a driver enabling innovation, agility, and flexibility for an increasingly mobile and dispersed workforce, transforming when, how, and where work occurs. IT organizations must prepare for new generations entering the workforce expecting frictionless onboarding, simple collaboration, and rich communications.
In today’s modern workforce, flexible remote work options are considered pre-requisites for many. There are also some clear benefits gained through empowering employees to work from home or locations other than the centralized office space.
Providing work flexibility for your employees means that technology is the centerpiece of their employee experience. In fact, it may be their only physical touchpoint with the organization.
Employees learn about the company and get to know their co-workers through these technologies. Because of this, ensuring that the employee’s experience through these technologies supports and grows their engagement is paramount to their productivity and job satisfaction. It is imperative to provide a streamlined, consistent experience across devices to ensure a positive employee experience.
By offering employees an increasingly consumer-like environment for accessing business applications and data, organizations working towards this transformation can offer a richer user experience, enabling employees to better engage and focus on the task at hand. For example, employees continue to eschew traditional work desk phones in favor of mobile devices and applications such as Zoom or WhatsApp that eliminate the need for landlines – even IP landlines.
Workforce transformation can lead to a wide range of employer benefits including:
- Empowering employees to work more effectively, thus increasing both productivity and morale
- Better collaboration and communication, leading to innovations and better utilization of talent
- Ability to recruit the top candidates thanks to a more flexible work environment
Workforce transformation is closely related to productivity gains needed in both businesses and the public sector, and the challenges brought on by the workplace transformation due to the pandemic also impact the workforce in how they work, from where, and what tools do they use to interact with their employers.
Many organizations struggle with hiring the workforce they need, evidenced by a recent HR Digest article that listed the top ten skills in demand for 2021, many of which are key to workforce transformation. Instead of hiring, many organizations are upskilling their employees so they can fulfill the changing needs of the business. Longer term, organizations need to rethink how the workforce operates and redesign workflow to take advantage of existing workforce strengths and to help attract new employees just entering the workplace.
One of the biggest challenges of the distributed workforce how to keep these employees engaged and productive, even when they are working remotely, some or all the time. This can also impact the management strategies, which may have to be tailored to meet the needs of a remote workforce.
For many, workforce transformation was thrust upon them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its resultant shutdown of businesses across the globe. Some of the challenges that organizations have faced while managing this crisis include:
- Platform limitations of existing collaboration and connectivity solutions
- Ongoing digital transformation or cloud migration projects
- Lack of executive buy-in
- Knowledge gaps due to technology evolution or rapidly changing security and privacy demands
- Limited capability to provide rapid on-boarding of new employees
- Inability to monitor employee and user access of business critical and sensitive data
- Issues providing comprehensive remote support to a distributed workforce
Workforce transformation principles fall into three broad categories:
- Respond: Act quickly, assess the situation, and offer consistent user experience, performance, and availability across all applications
- Adapt: Manage and secure the myriad of new devices and data for maximum workforce flexibility
- Accelerate: Gain intelligence and visibility into the endpoint environment to drive engagement and innovation throughout the organization.
Before planning for a workforce transformation, organizations must consider what the key business priorities are, so workforce transformation processes can be measured against those goals. Businesses who focus on too many top-level goals at once may find that none are achievable. Decide whether the key goal is intelligence driven growth through innovation, lower costs, or productivity and stick to those key goals. This can help expose key roles that should be combined or restructured as part of the overall transformation.
Then, the organization can start their workforce transformation with highest impact roles in mind, focusing on skill sets that are critical to achieve the high-priority business outcomes as soon as possible. While working toward that goal, be mindful that employees should also feel connected to the transformation. Focus on developing a connecting between each role and the overall goals of the organization so they 'opt-in' to the transformation efforts.
The employee user experience is critical; employees that suffer from lags due to latency or an inferior remote work experience will undoubtedly experience lower performance and satisfaction than users who feel they have the same experience and support as those in the workplace.
Support workforce transformation by rewarding behaviors that advance the transformation and engage with those users who are most vocal and influential in the organization, as they can be powerful allies and help drive adoption new workforce procedures and technologies. Finally, track transformation projects and make changes as needed to correct for issues that emerge during the transformation.