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WORKFORCE: Manpower Inc's Warning Regarding Workforce Strategy


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Manpower Inc, a world leader in innovative workforce solutions, has warned that a new survey reveals nearly a quarter of companies worldwide concede that talent strategy does not support business strategy and that unless companies act now to create a long-term workforce strategy that aligns with their business strategy, they will struggle to find the talent they need to drive future business growth.

“In the current economic environment, employers are thinking short-term about talent needs. If businesses don’t change this mindset, external forces in the rapidly changing world of work will leave them talent-poor. An excellent business strategy is of no use if you do not have the talent to execute it,” said Jeff Joerres, Manpower Inc. Chairman and CEO. He continues to explain: “Just as it would be unthinkable for a Chief Financial Officer to focus on the short-term debt-to-capital plan, similarly human resources requires a long-term talent plan, spanning five to ten years. The ability to have the talent plan reflects where the talent is coming from, and which talent should be owned long-term versus which talent should be owned short-term, leads to a robust workforce strategy.”

In a new Fresh Perspectives Paper, titled: Is Talent Holding You Back? Designing Workforce Strategy for Sustained Business Growth, Manpower argues that short-term thinking regarding workforce strategies is being driven by increased continuous unemployment globally. However, an increase in competition, shifting demographics, individual choice and the rise of technology, mean current strategies are inadequate to support their growth plans.

A Manpower Workforce Strategy Survey was conducted in two parts to determine disconnects that exist between organisational business strategy and workforce strategy and how prepared the workforce is to execute that strategy. Firstly, a sample of 37 866 employers, consisting of human resource executives and senior managers from various public and private organisations across 36 countries, were interviewed telephonically. Secondly, an employee sample of 14 385, consisting of a mix of employees performing professional and skilled trades roles at organisations in the G7 countries as well as China and India, were polled online.

With the talent mismatch becoming more acute as the global economy thaws, companies risk being without the skills they need to execute their business strategy. This survey reveals that almost a quarter of employers internationally concede that their organisations’ workforce strategy does not support their business strategy, or don’t know if it does. Among the two subsets of respondents, 53% admit they are not taking steps to address this issue. The majority of South African respondents revealed that they have a workforce strategy that is aligned with their business strategy, or, that they are at least “thinking” about creating a workforce strategy.

“South Africa has indicated fairly positive results in the survey that are on par with, and in certain instances, more positive than what we are seeing globally. This could be a sign that our economy is on its way to recovery from the recession,” says Peter Winn, Manpower South Africa Managing Director.

In comparison to the global results, over 90% of local organisations indicated that they have the talent needed to execute their companies’ business strategy. This is slightly higher than the global figure of 84%. The majority of the country’s respondents reign from the Mining and Quarrying sector and from the Free State region.

On the other hand, all round, there are mixed feelings among the organisations indicating that they do not have the talent to execute their business strategy. For instance, results from the South African Manufacturing sector show that the talent gap is one of the top three risks when striving to achieve their business strategy while the Restaurants and Hotels; and Transport, Storage and Communications sectors disagree.

All participants in the survey identified communication as the weakest skill in their organisations and this proved to be a barrier for executing their business strategy.

Within South Africa, there is positive feedback that training and development is a priority, especially within the Restaurants and Hotels sectors. An indication by 83% of these respondents reveals that that their organisations provide training and development opportunities to help employees build the skills they need to achieve their companies’ business strategies. This is higher than the global results.

“Organisations need to develop expertise to identify where talent gaps are and establish ways of filling them. This means building from within by placing high-potential employees and top performers in business-critical areas, as well as hiring in from external sources,” added Joerres.

An aligned workforce strategy should take an outside-in approach and be sensitive to the rapid pace of change in the world of work. This strategy should also keep up with demographic trends to gauge whether or not the talent needed is available and find innovative ways to tap into different talent pools. Companies need to consider flexible work models suitable for their organisation, and flexible workforce mixes to give a dynamic mix of contingent and permanent labour. HR leaders should review their people practices to determine how they can attract, retain and unleash the potential of their workforce in contemporary ways.

In addition, businesses must not overlook current employees who can and want to be upskilled to plug talent gaps. The key is to identify those employees that are teachable. Training and development is a primary driver of engagement for employees and builds capabilities to the benefit of the organisation. However, Manpower’s research shows that more than a third of employees say their companies have not made training and development a priority. A successful workforce strategy identifies talent gaps and then includes a plan on how to close that gap. Doing so involves a flexible mix of “building” and “buying” the skills needed for an organisation to achieve its business strategy.

“Just as with business strategy, a workforce strategy does no good sitting on a shelf,” added Winn. He concludes: “It requires continuous reference and challenging to ensure that the workforce strategy is robust enough to accelerate the organisation’s execution of its business strategy.”

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