Most organizations agree that the workforce is as much of an asset as technology and must be leveraged to its best advantage. According to a workforce agility study commissioned by Convergys Employee Care to assess the extent to which organizations develop strategies that achieve competitive advantage, workforce agility—the ability to flex, leverage and apply with immediacy the diverse and far-flung capabilities inherent in the workforce—is the best way to do this. “Companies have recognized that they need to drive competitive advantage through their workforce,” said Bonnie Tichman, vice president, Employee Care, Convergys. “In order to do that, they need to very quickly be able to align their workforce with the strategies of their companies, which may change from one day to another.”
“How are we going to make sure that we have the right people in place who understand the market, the right technologies to build it, are going to be able to sell it, market it, support it and think about all the downstream implications?” Tichman said. “How do you do that quickly? Today, in so many organizations, that ends up being next year’s plan. Most companies can’t do that quickly. Most companies say, ‘No, we really can’t. It is a struggle, and we don’t do a good job of making sure that our workforce, the skills they have, the way they’re aligned, things they’re even working on, (are) directly aligned to the strategy of our company.’”
This “cannot bend” attitude coincides with study results. Only 16 percent of the best-practice companies polled rated their companies as agile at reallocating human resources based on strategic need. Some 46 percent of executives surveyed rated their company as rigid or very rigid. Tichman said this information impacts learning executives by 10 percent plus 10 percent. Companies are overspending by at least 10 percent on their workforce, but that workforce is underperforming by 10 percent due to misalignment and misuse. Organizations may do a poor job scheduling, deploying too many or too few workers for critical operations, and the people on the job may not be multi-skilled, which is often necessary for effective or optimal performance.
“Poor development of their employees was directly cited,” Tichman said. “Employees don’t have the skills that they need at any particular time. They don’t have great plans or processes to get them there. One of the major reasons people voluntarily leave organizations is because they’re not growing. Lots of implications, including the high cost of turnover, come back to overall workforce costs.”
If employees are underperforming or not meeting their job requirements, they may not have been given the tools they need to succeed, Tichman said. “If a $10 billion company is spending 10 percent over, and we based the spending on a Saratoga metric, and if they’re underperforming by 10 percent, that could cost that company’s bottom line $1.25 billion in a year.”
Companies can avoid that kind of economic hole by effectively handling different types of learning and using learning tools to promote the external brand internally along with the culture and company values. “A huge component is integrating learning into work,” Tichman said. “Have learning with more of a simulation-type approach. Be able to deliver self-service types of learning applications that are there at the point of need. I think a lot of what this study is also saying is that there must be development for strategic employees, people who help that company drive revenue. People who are really close to the customer, who drive the strategic value of that organization, need to be managed differently. They need different types of learning and development programs related to skills, and (it) needs to be custom.”
Learning objectives for key workers must be aligned with the business strategies and any gaps or deficits identified and addressed to produce a truly agile workforce. Measurements are needed to determine these factors. “There’s got to be skills tracking. Learning impact analysis has to be a requirement to see if revenue and productivity increased,” Tichman said. “Is scheduling more efficient because we have more skilled people on the floor at one time? We need to do a better job using data analytics and business intelligence to be able to understand trends and patterns and also to do a better job predicting in the future.”
The study also identified talent diversity as a major component to help ensure that a workforce is tied to business objectives over the long term. Not cultural or gender diversity, Tichman said, but more diversity in terms of being multi-skilled and multi-experienced. “There’s such a skills gap for even the most talented individuals in an organization because things are changing so quickly,” Tichman said. “Where do (employees) need to go tomorrow? What are the kinds of technologies they’re going to need? Are there new, different kinds of marketing plans that need to be executed so these strategic employees will always be on the forefront? They need to be learning continuously. What a great opportunity for the learning executive to truly be at that executive table to make sure that the company can be more predictive in what they’re going to need and be prepared.”Filed under: Measurement, Technology