Shifts in the workplace are coming, and they will likely have long-term implications that could affect the health of your business.

Many organizations have been operating in crisis mode in 2021. While it was necessary and understandable to focus on the most critical tasks during the pandemic, strategic workforce planning fell by the wayside during this time, and that lack of long-term perspective could cause numerous issues down the road.

Businesses needed to take a more short-term view to address the urgent challenges that emerged as a result of COVID-19. For example, organizations had to ensure the safety of their employees and customers, cope with supply chain issues and figure out how to equip employees to work from home indefinitely.

Even as more organizations move toward recovery, it is still challenging to look beyond the current fires and anticipate obstacles down the road. However, organizations must find the bandwidth to do so, because whether leaders are prepared or not, shifts in the workplace are coming, and they will likely have long-term implications that could affect the health of your business.

A wave of turnover is forecasted

During the pandemic, as in most crises, many employees hunkered down and didn't try to change jobs due to the uncertain environment. But as the pandemic eases, experts say that will change dramatically. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) refers to the coming wave as a turnover tsunami and predicts that the ripples of this wave will be felt throughout the business world.

Job opportunities will increase, and employees will feel more confident about taking on new jobs. In addition, more workers will take advantage of the flexibility to work remotely and will have access to more opportunities beyond their locale. Retirements are also on the uptick, which means valuable institutional knowledge will be heading out the door as well.

And let's not forget about the longstanding skill gaps that existed well before the pandemic and only widened over the past year. While companies have had to pump up their digital capabilities in response to the pandemic, employees haven't always had the chance to keep up.

Critical strategic workforce planning areas

As businesses look to their strategic workforce planning, three critical issues will undoubtedly require specific attention: succession planning, talent mobility and retention.

  • Succession planning. Many businesses are not prepared for senior leaders or other critical staff to leave. One in five public companies and nearly one in three privately-held companies don't have a CEO succession plan. They don't have the pipelines in place for hard-to-fill roles, which can lead to a vicious cycle as the competition for replacements becomes fiercer.
  • Talent mobility. Many organizations aren't working to move talent around internally. Instead, when they need to hire, they are much more likely to look externally. Even if they have the talent in-house, they may not have a culture that supports cross-team movement, or their hiring managers may be stretched too thin to look at internal possibilities. However, to maintain your business' culture and continuity, it is critical to build from within. In turbulent times especially, filling critical positions with talented employees who already know your organization can enable them to contribute more directly and immediately to the welfare of the business.
  • Retention. Businesses are struggling with turnover and filling certain roles, and this trend doesn't just extend to senior leaders or tech jobs. To address this issue, organizations must examine their retention efforts and see if they are working. For instance, organizations may not be paying competitively, which could be causing employees to leave. It's crucial for businesses to have access to compensation benchmarking data so they can understand how their pay and benefits stack up against the competition. It can also be helpful to conduct exit surveys and stay interviews to determine why people are choosing to leave the business.

Succession planning, talent mobility and retention are interrelated, and addressing one often requires addressing all three. Doing so might seem daunting, but it's essential for organizations to engage in strategic workforce planning now to get ahead of imminent workforce shifts and ensure the health and continuity of their business in the future.

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