What you’ll learn

  • How future workforce expectations have changed
  • Questions to ask when planning your future workforce strategy
  • Three steps to take to create your future workforce

"That's the way it's always been done" no longer cuts it. If you're one of the leaders in charge of shaping the future workforce at your company, you know this all too well.

Once upon a time, C-suite leaders set their sights on a single landmark and marched everyone across the desert toward it. But two decades into the 21st century, and we're dealing with a pandemic, sky-high inflation and geopolitical crises. These events and more have created shifting sand dunes you have to navigate your people around, over, and through.

Your charge as a leader is no longer to make do with the tactics and processes that have always guided your workforce. Instead, you've got to implement a sense of workplace nimbleness that will help your organization adapt to whatever comes along the way.

Shifting to future workforce expectations

The work world is headed in an increasingly multifaceted direction. Recent research says that the half-life of most professional skills is only five years. Only a few years ago, that number was closer to 10 or 15 years. And it's not just about the individual skills needed to do the job, either. Today's companies are looking to transform the way they operate entirely.

In a pulse survey, Korn Ferry polled more than 4,000 organizations on their post-COVID workforce expectations and found:

  • 75% of companies expect to operate more virtually
  • 47% plan to sharpen the way they communicate with their people
  • 36% will rely less on temporary workers

How can companies plan to meet these workforce expectations?

There's no master plan. And that's by design.

Organizations that have successfully shifted haven't simply copied what's been done before. They have, however, customized change for their particular workforce. They've also provided inspiration to redefine their work cultures in ways that grab people's attention, keeping them engaged and nurturing their desire to collaborate on impactful work.

The way forward is to shed the classic mindset of what work should look like based on how it's always looked. Leaders need to look inward and be willing to see work conditions through a new lens—plus have the fortitude to retire company standards that will no longer serve the future workforce. Instead, companies should seek new approaches that accomplish the following:

  • Challenge your people with complex projects that require collaboration
  • Trust workers to find creative, agile ways to solve problems
  • Allow individuals and teams to thrive in new structures
  • Recognize employees' need to balance productive work with a fulfilling personal life
  • Reflect the objectives of the leadership team, the people and the everyday world we live in

Ask these 6 questions when planning your future workforce strategy

As you ponder the way forward, think strategy, not tactics. Instead of a single modification that's half-heartedly implemented and easily dismissed, provide an overarching objective that illuminates, informs and supports the measures that will truly redefine the workforce.

This process starts with a series of questions. Each individual query defines an aspect of your future workforce, but in combination with each other, these weave a broad picture of what your organization fundamentally is:

  • Who do you need to be successful? What skills, behaviors and experiences will you need? What if shifting jobs remains popular? If so, how will that affect your reliance on contractors?
  • What do you need your people to do? As you redefine jobs, what responsibilities must be covered, and how can the new framework support worker growth and development? How is automation changing what your people need to do in their roles?
  • How do you need your people to work? What flexibility should you allow for while ensuring teams excel, collaboration thrives and your employees remain healthy? Can work that exists within a silo be re-designed so that it's truly inclusive for your teams?
  • When do you need your people to work? Can you sustainably flex responsibilities and schedules to support work/life balance while making sure that work gets done?
  • Where do you need your people to be based? What role could a remote strategy have, especially for employees who are consistently successful away from the office? Could a flexible hybrid model benefit everyone?
  • Why does your organization exist? Can you design a meaningful work experience that aligns with your organization's purpose, motivates people to meet company goals and also fulfills their needs and values?
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Workforce Transformation

Transform your workforce for the future.

Three steps to create your future workforce

Next, you will have to put time, energy and resources into crafting your successful future workforce. This three-step review will help you envision the workforce your organization needs to thrive going forward.

1 Imagine a future rooted in success

Picture what your organization’s work looks like tomorrow. How is it getting done? What technology, workers, partnerships and support systems are essential? How will those needs differ in a environment that rapidly changes versus an environment that grows carefully over time? What kinds of future-facing capabilities do you need to keep up with the many ways the world is changing?

Listen to a vast array of voices on what your future workforce might look like. Ensure you hear from your leaders, your employees and your wider stakeholders.

Then compare your future vision to the current reality using a data driven approach. What is today’s work vs the work of tomorrow?

A future-focused success story

Consider UK Rail Network who needed to meaningfully speed-up the execution of a multi-billion pound digital transformation, which had been delayed by lack of resources. We worked with them to build a large digital engineering workforce in 10 years less than initially estimated. To do so, we modeled the effect of different workforce strategies (recruitment, development, talent management) and ways of doing the work to identify the right mix of levers to pull to make sure they had the right workforce to deliver these programs.

2 Architect a holistic work plan

Map out how work should successfully flow through your organization, from high-level structures right down to the nitty gritty daily responsibility of jobs. Examine uninteresting roles, including leadership roles. Organizations often ignore the unglamorous jobs that are quietly changing the most and don’t treat leadership as a job, causing critical disconnects in work all across the organization. Highlight gaps and develop strategies to address mismatched skillsets and ineffective rewards programs.

Putting plans into action

Recently, a Fortune 100 IT and hardware firm was on the verge of irrelevancy despite decades of industry leadership. Under the leadership of a new CEO, the company worked with Korn Ferry to redefine itself as a cloud infrastructure developer and embark on a needed digital transformation. While the engineering team developed a new product portfolio and the sales team modified its processes, we worked with the organization to ensure that the company could deliver on its promise: developing a plan that integrated updated skills, external resources and employee movement within the firm's 166 job families.

3 Transform the principles of your workforce

Overhaul the employee experience by fostering a culture rooted in the new ways of working. Take a look at what's needed to help redevelop today's employees and acquire new team members for tomorrow. And don't be afraid to tweak as you go; assessing your progress and adjusting along the way can help ensure you meet workforce demands as they inevitably shift.

Driving transformation through partnership

Consider a Forbes Global 500 pharmaceutical company that sought to create a 100-employee digital center of excellence. Anticipating that a combination of internal and external talent would be required to staff the center, the firm partnered with Korn Ferry and sought a fair, transparent and effective assessment process for all candidates. It even created development journeys for all employees hired into the center while solidifying overall governance and workflow processes.

Create your future workforce now

The ongoing success of your business depends on navigating present-day challenges and obstacles while effectively preparing it for the unknowns of the future. As present realities have become just as uncertain as tomorrow's potentials, the lines between today's tactics and future strategies can easily become blurred. However, the distinction is essential as you determine how you must adapt and change your workforce to meet the challenges of the future. Read our whitepaper to find out more or – contact us.