Workforce Transformation for Strategic Success
Successful workplace transformation must start and end with the employee experience
It is widely accepted that digital workplace technology along with other forces are changing the nature of work. It’s less clear how the roles and tasks employees perform will change, and what organizations should do as a result.
To answer these questions, we commissioned research by the Economist IU. Our goal was to examine workforce transformation and find out how, if at all, organizations are tying it to their broader strategic goals.
Key findings included: the most common strategic objectives for workforce transformation around the world were product and service innovation, cost reduction to improve profitability and greater innovation in operations and practices.
But whatever the priority, organizations believe more strongly than ever that the answer to achieving them lies in their workforces.
Same goal, different targets
Workforce transformation is the significant and deliberate change of the nature of a company’s employee base, including the way it’s deployed.
Our research surveyed 200 large to mid-sized companies around the world and we found most were doing some version of this. However, where in the world respondents were had a significant influence on what the overall strategic goals of their workforce transformation were.
In the US, organizations’ focus was on improving organizational agility; in Europe, it was expansion into adjacent markets and geographies; Japan’s was product and service innovation; and in Australia, it was all about maintaining market share.
And these priorities are impacting workforces in numerous ways. For example, companies trying to innovate their products and services tended to focus on workforce growth, automating tasks/jobs and seeking out more employees with “human skills”, such as creativity and communication.
Digital and workplace transformation are closely intertwined
Workforce transformation is accelerating – 44% of the organizations we surveyed reported to have transformed ‘significantly’ in just the last three years. Workforce transformation and digital transformation share many common objectives. Technological change is both a driver and enabler.
The survey reveals that the most common changes organizations have made as part of workforce transformation have been to increase their investments in technology and digital skills training.
Eight out of 10 respondents reported that these measures helped them achieve their workplace transformation goals. But fewer respondents went on to report that these measures have helped their organizations achieve their overall strategic objectives.
Issues around legacy hardware are certainly a problem, with many respondents pointed to old systems hindering more significant workforce change. However, the bigger issue seems to be the strain it’s putting on employees.
Businesses increasingly face complexities such as one-off transformation costs and increased staff turnover. For example, 77% of the organizations reported high turnover as a result of workforce transformation. So, before setting out, you need to prepare for the price of workforce transformation. With the right planning, you can prepare for – and overcome – these issues.
There’s a significant lack of digital skill across industries, and new recruits know this which means they’re not prepared don’t want to settle for a second-rate employee workplace experience.
Employee experience above all else
Many organizations are slow to implement workforce transformation because they don’t feel they have enough information to take an informed stance. So, it’s no surprise that 41% of respondents cited staff resistance as their main barrier to workplace transformation. Interestingly, the second most cited barrier was a lack of understanding of what the organization wants its ideal workforce to even look like.
Our research proves that organizations know they need to evolve with the times. They’re initiating new digital workplace strategies, adopting new workplace technologies and trying to transform their employees into efficient, skilled workforces.
But if they truly hope to successfully transform their workforces, it must start and end with the employee experience.