by Guest Blogger – Michelle Holland

In my Part 1 of my blog series on Workforce Planning I spoke about the need to have your C-suite on board and to see Workforce Planning as an essential part of a successful business model.  In Part 2 I may have scared everyone into thinking that jobs are always ‘on the line’ if managers don’t plan their long term workforce needs.  Jobs are not ‘on the line’ but they may become a new slice of the pie.

I want to introduce you to a new way of thinking about workforce. Generally we think about our workforce as a ‘structure’. Even that word puts a concept of immobility in mind. Structures are hard, static and immovable. When we think of our workforce like this we impede change and growth.

I want you to stop and think of your current workforce as a pie. It seems silly I know, but just come with me for a moment. I promise I’m still talking about Workforce Planning.

Currently your workforce pie is cut into various slices – Finance, projects, customer services etc. Then those slices are sliced again – Finance Manager, Accountant, Accounts Clerk etc. Then we take the small slices and we write down the detail in a document we may call ‘Position Description’ or a ‘Job and Person Specifications’ or ‘Performance Plan’.

Guess what? Those documents are written on paper, not concrete. They can be changed. You can slice the pie differently so it works better for the business right now. Ah…gasp…horror…not change! We can’t change…the unions…oh dear god the unions will be here…

Now I can’t speak for all the unions, but the many that I’ve dealt with are generally not stoppers of change. They just don’t like unplanned, reactive and harsh change that has a truly negative impact on the wellbeing of their members.

Just like a pie, you can’t take ingredients out without remaking the whole pie. So if you need to remove whole positions or people from your workforce you need to put in the time and effort to do that appropriately. That’s called ‘managing change’ but that’s not what this blog is about. That’s a whole other blog…

This blog is about flexible workforce models.

So what does this mean?  How can we change the pie without removing the key ingredients? By building flexibility into our workforce model. Slicing the pie differently. Communicating about job roles differently.  Recruiting differently.

Perhaps we need to put more accounting work into the accounting position and more management work into the manager position?  We just need to ensure that when we add something to a job role, the person in that role is supported. That support comes from training, coaching, and may come from letting go of tasks that aren’t adding value.

If we think about our pieces of pie being 100%, generally even the top performers are only performing at 90% and the other 10% is made up of the ‘stuff we have to do’ that adds limited value e.g. the meeting we attend and sit in for an hour thinking “why am I here?”.

So we need to empty a bit of the 100% elsewhere so the person has the space and can develop the capability to take on the new duty.  This may mean finding someone who’s only at 60% performance.

We used to have managers managing and administration doing admin. Now we have admin managing and managers doing admin. Has this been a good change? I’ll leave that for you to decide.  But the point is, we decided to cut the pie differently then, so why not now?

The point of this discussion is not to start changing people’s jobs all ‘willy-nilly’ but instead to encourage managers and organisations to start thinking differently about how they have traditionally structured their business.

I think something people forget is that we created this structure, position, job role, rule etc. therefore we can change it.

Your workforce needs to be able to respond to change, whatever that change is for your business and however swiftly that change happens.  Glaciers change, they just take a while and the change is not as obvious as the latest and greatest IT Gadget….but it’s still change and it’s still important for growth.

Anything can change, it may just take a bit of effort….and a good workforce plan.