Ups and downs: Managing business growth by aligning structure to strategy

When it comes time to grow your business, how do you decide whether to hire new talent or upskill your current workforce? And when you need to slow down, what’s the best way to consolidate, without losing efficiency and customer experience?

Analysts at the International Money Fund have said that the rate of global economic growth is likely to plateau this year and in 2019. This slow-down can at least be partly contributed to the introduction of international trade tariffs from both the US and China and the effect that will have on global companies.

With the global economic growth rate set to slow down, companies might find their growth over recent years also slow suddenly, or worse yet, they may suddenly have to trim workforces to balance workflow.

Korn Ferry works with companies around the world to assess their challenges and reassess their organisational design to streamline their business. The key is finding opportunities to be flexible, agile and to make the best of changing business circumstances as they arise.

Organisational design and you

Leaders in human resources understand that to properly plan for growth and the needs of the company, they need strategic oversight of not only the business strategy, but also wider market trends. Hiring managers and owners can then look at the most effective ways to grow their teams, while solving any workflow issues.

This is called strategic workforce planning. It powers organisational design and helps companies ‘rightsize’ – or having the right number of people at their most effective level – without comprising profit, productivity or customer experience.

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Strategic workforce planning and organisational design also look at how the company is likely to grow, and compares this to the number of staff that are available (or required) to help sustain success in the future.

For instance, a business that runs a chain of brick-and-mortar stores might employ a number of retail assistants, ensuring that their customer service is up to scratch in store. However, if that same business saw an influx of online customers after upgrading their website, they would require an agile workforce who are skilled in customer service, warehousing and order fulfilment.

Effective organisational design means the company will be quick to enter the market for new talent, while unearthing opportunities within its existing workforce for promotions, mobility and new career paths.

Organisational design also considers the impact of technology on a workforce, and how workplace processes can be streamlined to create a more cohesive working environment that lets workers be more agile in their jobs.

Korn Ferry has written extensively about the impact of technology on a human workforce, but the considerations are always the same – technology is an enabler, rather than a substitute for human productivity.

The right skills for the job

Having the right people in a role can be infinitely more beneficial than having more staff. The right people can drive productivity, foster new relationships and improve the culture of a workplace.

By contrast, looking to fill seats rather than hiring efficiently could leave a business with a staffing imbalance, where projects become bloated or spread too thin.

This is especially true where a company must contract and reduce the number of staff. When downsizing or repurposing existing staff into new roles, having a strategic oversight of the business direction and upcoming challenges means you can decide how existing staff can be retrained or upskilled to help their talent grow.

Korn Ferry’s Complexity Model is one way of looking at how a business can best manage staff versus strategic needs. It looks at a company on a departmental basis and weights the complexity of each department’s processes against the headcount in that team, to help indicate changes needed within the company.

A good example of disruption and refocusing is the banking industry.

Historically, banks have employed service-focused tellers in branches to manage day-to-day tasks like client accounts and sales. However, banks have moved more and more towards a digital future in recent years by embracing customer apps and online services, and consolidating resources within centralised models to produce economies of scale.

This has seen a refocus in their workforce to develop digitally-minded professionals in areas such as web design, online chat portals and online infrastructure.

So, when changing direction, downsizing or refocusing the company, the options are clear – you can look to retain skilled staff and reassess how they can multitask across the organisation, or maintain the workload with the remaining staff and risk a more competitive and costly hiring process.

Organisational design will ensure you understand the company’s direction and evolving market conditions, to maintain a profitable and productive workforce and capitalise on opportunities in both up and down times.

To learn more about Korn Ferry’s approach to organisational design, listen to our webinar, Organisation Design: Making Transformation Happen.