Work force shaping is HR’s defining challenge

First, what do we mean by “work force shaping?”

Work force shaping is taking a scenario-based approach to defining the required work force in five years’ to eight years’ time. Work force shaping is understanding how digital disruption and artificial intelligence (AI) will change the overall shape, size, composition and skills in the work force and how humans and machines will work together to drive business value and a high-performing work force.

The impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—the term used to describe the convergence of AI, robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML) and cognitive platforms—is forcing teams to shape their work forces to consist of all worker types, including permanent, gig, contingent and machine, and to use the 4Bs: buy, build, borrow and bot. 

This Fourth Industrial Revolution has irreversibly altered the genetic makeup of the modern work force. Indeed, the Big Innovation Centre estimated that 65 percent of our jobs will not exist or will be done in totally new ways within 10 years. 

Three in five HR (human resources) executives from our survey agree, as they did last year, that AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates. Yet, the “2019 Global CEO Outlook,” in contrast, confirmed again that chief executive officers continue to be more optimistic on the matter, with close to 70 percent expressing that AI will create more jobs than it eliminates. Regardless of what might happen, we must prepare for it, one way or another. 

Over half (56 percent) of the respondents to our HR survey agree that preparing the work force for AI and related technologies will be the biggest challenge for their function. And while most (87 percent) are prioritizing efforts around how to identify the future work force composition (the 4Bs) HR leaders still seem uncertain about the best approach to do that. Some organizations have started replacing the debatable certainties of supply and demand forecasting of traditional work force planning with work force shaping to deal with the impacts of automation and AI.

Committing to work force shaping 

THE importance of using work force shaping to break down and rethink traditional roles is largely understood by HR functions across the globe.

For example, Kristie Keast, chief people officer at steelmaker BlueScope, confirms that the transformation is in full swing within her business and that it is a normal outcome of constantly challenging the status quo to do things better.

“We are currently grappling with what the industrial revolution 4.0 means in terms of the displacement of the work force, and the work force planning we need to implement around this,” Keast said. “While the automation of processes, such as crane machinery within BlueScope has given us the opportunity to bring down costs and improve productivity, we do need to take into account the potential for the displacement of work force or jobs. 

“Work force shaping is central to this aim, in order to accommodate new roles that might become apparent, and enabling employees to move seamlessly between vocations wherever possible,” Keast added. 

To meet the future needs of their organizations, HR needs to actively challenge who—or what—carries out the majority of traditional tasks. Ninety percent of Pathfinding HR organizations cite that identifying the future work force composition is a strategic priority, and approximately 80 percent believe they are largely prepared to do so. However, over half of their counterparts report they are either not particularly, or not at all, prepared. 

“Work force shaping is not a case of doing traditional work force planning harder and faster. In fact, work force planning still has a role to play in many organizations. But from discussions with clients who are at the forefront of digital disruption, we find that work force shaping should generally come first. It frames the more operational decisions and creates the context for action. It is, many clients argue, a new discipline for HR,” elaborates Paul Lipinski, principal and head of human capital advisory at KPMG in the United States.

This excerpt was taken from the KPMG article “The Future of HR 2020: Which path are you taking?”

© 2019 R.G. Manabat & Co., a Philippine partnership and a member-firm of the KPMG network of independent member-firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative, a Swiss entity. All rights reserved. Printed in the Philippines.

For more information on KPMG in the Philippines, you may visit www.kpmg.com.ph.

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