Article: Future-proofing jobs to drive the ‘New Better’

Strategic HR

Future-proofing jobs to drive the ‘New Better’

With digitalisation driving profound changes in business on a global scale, companies need to look at how they can redesign jobs to create a future-ready core.
Future-proofing jobs to drive the ‘New Better’

Businesses are facing a transforming world of work. As vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 gradually starts taking a backseat, economies are restarting their engines. Ensuing technology advances have disrupted jobs, rendering some roles obsolete while creating new ones. Firms that manage to prepare for such workforce trends will succeed. How can organisations accelerate their own transformation and emerge stronger? 

Digitalisation and the changing nature of jobs

The future of work as we know it is set to change drastically. According to an October 2020 World Economic Forum (WEF) report, the rise of machines and automation will eliminate a staggering 85 million jobs by 2025. At the same time, the WEF expects 97 million new jobs to be created, meaning a net addition of 12 million jobs. Alongside navigating pandemic-induced challenges such as lockdowns and recessions, there is an urgent need for employers to reskill and upskill employees to ensure they are sufficiently equipped for the future of work.

Digitalisation has given businesses the opportunity to transform the way work gets done. By enlarging and enriching roles, organisations can make them more attractive, achieving higher productivity and post-pandemic growth. 

Job redesign plays a critical role in business transformation.

With job redesign, employees can acquire new skills and capabilities, and reduce time spent in menial tasks, allowing them to take up more interesting and challenging assignments. This not only increases the value/pay of the work they do, but also the attractiveness of their jobs.

According to our latest Global HR Pulse Survey, 76 percent of firms are identifying current and future skills gaps, focusing on reskilling, and upskilling their workforce to be future-ready. 

Job redesign also plays a crucial role in how businesses manage their talent, with as many as 81 percent implementing future-ready talent and job strategies to attract and retain the right talent. In fact, nearly half have assessed or are starting to assess their workforce for key digital-readiness, agility, and adaptability.

For an example of how job redesign can be done, we worked with a leading logistics company that was competing with firms outside its traditional talent market and was having difficulty attracting and retaining employees due to outdated jobs and lack of career options. This company needed to redesign its jobs and job architecture, and we took it through a structured process as follows:

  1. Understanding the company's digitalisation strategy and impact on the business model
  2. Identifying jobs that are subject to change
  3. Analysing the jobs and the impact of digitalisation on tasks, deliverables, and requisite skills and capabilities
  4. Crafting a re-skilling and upskilling strategy for the company to build the right skills within their existing workforce to support the digital transformation

The job redesign helped to improve the company’s effectiveness by eliminating siloed working and driving collaboration. It also created future-ready jobs to support their strategy and enhanced job scopes. This not only made them more attractive to the workforce, but improved pay.

Transforming the business core

Job redesign provides the foundation for all subsequent steps of workforce change to ensure that the core of the business is future-ready. Employers can look at starting the process by identifying pivotal jobs, which are not only going to be affected by the transformation, but actually impact majority of business outcomes. These are jobs critical to the execution of the company’s strategy and business model.

Understanding the impact of digitalisation on deliverables and requisite skills for these pivotal jobs can help firms identify gaps. They can then put in place strategies to have the right talent to drive the transformed business model. 

A recent study of work we did with our clients has shown that while technology implementation for business transformation may take two to three years, getting the workforce to adapt to the changes takes at least five years.

It is therefore extremely important for firms to start workforce change sooner rather than later.

To accelerate the time taken from technology implementation to workforce change, many smaller-scale experimentations or changes need to take place in agile and fast-learning environments.

While embarking on this workforce change process, some questions that arise include:

  • What skills and people do we need to compete now and in the future?
  • Do we have a clear picture about the objectives and deliverables of these jobs?
  • Have we outlined progression paths for the jobs into a meaningful job architecture?
  • Is our job architecture sufficiently flexible to adapt to future needs?
  • How do the different job families in the job architecture reinforce each other in a differentiated yet integrated way?
  • How will we provide employees with vertical, horizontal, or even diagonal career opportunities?

Redesigning these pivotal jobs will give organisations time to assess, train and reskill the workforce, resulting in productivity gains and the success of their transformation.

Create value for tomorrow, today

While business transformation and digitalisation will create higher value jobs and possibly a lower headcount, it is imperative to also pre-empt the inevitable job obsolesce in many cases.  

For example, while digitalising processes in the Finance department in a company, we made some accounting jobs redundant, but created new jobs, such as those in data analytics and cyber security. These jobs are niche, have a smaller ready-talent pool, and are difficult to hire for considering the higher costs. 

It is more beneficial for the company to upskill and re-skill their workforce for these new jobs, based on a deeper understanding of what the new jobs entail and each worker’ underlying capabilities, including his/her propensity to change. This way, the company gains lead time to invest in its workforce and generate savings compared to if it were to buy new expensive talent from the marketplace. An additional advantage is that the company’s reputation as a people grower becomes a strong employee value proposition, going a long way to attract and retain talent. 

The drawn-out pandemic has not only disrupted conventional forms of work, but also forced many employers to reimagine their working landscape to prepare for a dynamic future. Future-proofing jobs will undoubtedly be a critical component of business transformation to drive the ‘New Better’. The window of opportunity to emerge stronger is now. 

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Topics: Strategic HR

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