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HR Planning for Current and Future Needs

Skills that were once important to our society are not necessarily needed any longer.  This occurs because our world is consistently changing and businesses must to respond to the change or they become irrelevant.  Think about Kodak for a moment.  Kodak was one of the biggest businesses around in the 80s, now… well with the introduction of digital cameras they have almost ceased to exist (Vecchiato, R., and Roveda, C., 2010).  They were not responsive to the change that consumers were dictating.

It goes to reason that if the supply of products change then consequently the skills and abilities that a business requires changes.  Just as the businesses strategic plan needs to be responsive so does the HR plan (Millmore et al 2007).

When demand changes so does the way in which we do work.  Automation has also been a major driver of change for the workforce (Vecchiato, R., and Roveda, C., 2010).   In the early industrial times the need for humans to create products was strong.  We had people moving apples from one end of a warehouse to the other end of a warehouse.  Now, everything that can be automated by a machine is automated.  This removes the human from the process and changes the needs of the businesses workforce.

Now there are obvious reasons that this has occurred.  Businesses are consistently trying to increase their profit margins and respond to the changes in the economy.  When there is less money floating around in the market, business is quick to find cheaper and clever ways of getting work done.  In the Australian Industrial framework, the salaries and working conditions of everyday workers have increased to a point that having humans working in business is a very costly exercise.  McCrann wrote about the death of the car industry in his 2014 Herald Sun article naming one of the killers as the expensive workforce in Australia.  This is not limited to this industry. Therefore not surprisingly business is desperate to reduce this expense.

Unfortunately for many businesses they have implemented such an inflexible model of workforce that they struggle to respond quickly enough to these drivers of change.    Without flexibility the business will fail to respond and may fail altogether.

This is where good human resource planning (HRP) and flexible job design comes into the equation.

Dave Ulrich says in his 1998 article in HRB:

“Successful organizations will be those that are able to quickly turn strategy into action; to manage processes intelligently and efficiently; to maximize employee contribution and commitment; and to create the conditions for seamless change.”

Having a model of job design and workforce planning that provides flexibility in positions, provides the development and skills necessary and a structure that allows the workforce to respond to changing needs is essential for the business to be successful.

Now this is not an easy undertaking.  Obviously workforce is set up with a specific structure in mind and generally reflects a command and control model…ie: similar to the military.  What we require in business is a significant practice shift.

The practice of setting a structure and developing strict position descriptions that dictate each position has become so outdated that they don’t assist a business to grow.  Boudrea and Ramstead (2007) recommend linking the workforce job design directly to the pivot-points in the business (ie: the strategy, the customer demands, the leadership competencies etc).  This is good advice and help to push the business into thinking about its workforce planning as being responsive and connected rather than a separate entity that is planned once, designed once and then stays that way until a cumbersome process of change.

The role of Human Resource professionals is to ensure that the structure that is in place has flexibility built in and also that the job design is reflective of the current needs of the business and also are able to be modified to suit the changing needs of the market and customer demand.  A consistent and forward looking model of learning and development is an essential part of the planning model that HR needs to implement.

Having a responsive plan is essential for good business practice and having job designed so that they reflect the current needs and the future needs of the business is also essential.   HR have a very clear role in providing the guidance for the managers to build flexibility into their positions and structure.

References:

Bourdreau, J. W., and Ramstad, P. M. (2007). Beyond HR – The New Science of Human Capital.  USA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation

McCrann, T. (2014). Toyota quits our shores: The killing of Australia’s car industry. Herald Sun, Available at http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/terry-mccrann/toyota-quits-our-shores-the-killing-of-australias-car-industry/story-fni0d8gi-1226823008876

Millmore, M., Lewis, P., Saunders, M., Thornhill, A, and Morrow T. (2007). Strategic Human Resource Management Contemporary Issues. England: Pearson Education Limited.

Ulrich, D. (1998). A New Mandate for Human Resources. Harvard Business Review.  January 1998 Online Issue. Available at https://hbr.org/1998/01/a-new-mandate-for-human-resources

Vecchiato, R., and Roveda, C., (2010). Strategic foresight in corporate organizations: Handling the effect and response uncertainty of technology and social drivers of change. Technological Forecasting & Social Change. Vol 77 (2010) 1527–1539

Blog by Michelle Holland

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