Navigating Uncertainty: Emerging Effectively
Updated: 2 days ago
Constant Shock Syndrome
The last several years have been a constant state of uncertainty. From the pandemic to war to economic shocks and digital transformation, the old trope is true... the only constant is change. Now that your organization has reacted to the latest round of crises, what is the plan as you navigate through it and, at some point, emerge into your new normal? As recent headlines attest, many organizations have fallen prey to the old way of thinking - over-hire to meet short-term spikes in demand, deploy mass layoffs when that short-term demand returns to normal levels - rinse repeat. How do you ensure your organization doesn't cut out capability now when you will need it again soon?
We have had periods of drastic change in the past. We will again in the future. And one thing is for sure - “this too shall pass”. Going back (quite) a number of years where I once worked, we gave it a name - “constant shock syndrome” - September 11/War in Iraq, SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu and the GFC hit our industry significantly in what felt like quite rapid succession. We had to understand and model the impact of these shocks on the organization and our people, so that we could have the most appropriate strategies and action plans in place to navigate through and emerge in the most effective way.
So how do we navigate these changes in the most planned, holistic and socially responsible way? Core to Strategic Workforce Planning is dynamic scenario planning, the key approach to navigating through uncertainty.
Going Beyond Organizational Design to True Strategic Workforce Planning
You need to ensure your organization doesn’t make short-term decisions that destroy your long-term viability. We must look at the needs of the organization right now, but what is critical is that we are simultaneously also considering the future.
Because, this type of “shock” is something that leading companies have been talking about for years, we see many a business continuity plan to get through the disaster, and they do assume an eventual resumption to normal. eQ8 has long emphasized the importance of scenario planning in the face of self-created and market forces, and of course external shocks.
What can we do to increase our ability to emerge effectively? What is it even going to look like when we do emerge? How do you integrate all of the different impacts across your entire workforce in the most holistic way, now and into the future? How do we balance our organisations survival and social responsibility to our people?
Strategic Workforce Planning Empowers Leaders
Leaders need structured conversations about the impact of the current economic shocks and the impact on the longer-term operating model. Scenario planning using dynamic modeling ensures that the discussion includes tangible insights on how the activities of the organization are changing and the resultant impact on the key delivery vehicle for change, our people.
By bringing a sandbox view of multiple possible futures, we are helping leaders consider various trajectories and the resulting workforce requirements. How do you understand changing organization activities and volumes, and what they mean for each segment of your workforce? How do you bring it all together meaningfully?
Strategic Workforce Planning Is The Future of Work
Not only is the volume of work changing, but the way we are doing it is changing. The pandemic years were the largest social experiment of our time as working from home became, first, a mandate and then a preference in large portions of the workforce. We saw almost immediately what work could be done remotely versus what required some sort of customer/organization proximity.
We were compelled to rethink both our operating models and the workforce mix, pushing boundaries to think outside the box in completely new ways. Dynamic scenario functionality, such as what we have built into our software, eQ8, allows your organization to model:
Which of your core business drivers/activities are increasing or decreasing, and what is the resultant impact on your workforce?
What step changes – starting a new facility, ceasing a part of your operations, transitioning to new technology delivery for your customers – will mean for your organization?
How can you create talent transition pathways (redeploying, re-skilling) to smooth out internal curves of demand without blanket workforce reductions?
Where are your workforce risks under different scenario trajectories so you can mitigate most effectively?
How to navigate the new world of meeting your organization demand using different “ways of working” such as hybrid or remote work or tapping into gig economy, and which roles fit which response?
When things inevitably change, how can you shape and shift in the most effective way to meet customer, client, and/or citizen needs?
We still have organizations that have customers, have employees and have a purpose. Even more than ever, we need to understand what that purpose is and what it will take to get there. We need to step up for our people, and give them as much support and certainty as we can.
Scenario planning enables you to get better insights into the workforce impacts of external shocks. Because if we don’t handle it right now, the longer term effects can drag on for so much longer.
You need to plan ahead to be able to accelerate out of any crisis. You need to ensure your organization doesn’t make short-term decisions that destroy your long-term viability. Because eventually, we will emerge, but it will not be a return to the previous norms. Scenario planning is what can really align your organization. You must come together now to successfully emerge and navigate the new normal. For more great discussion on how businesses can find success with Dynamic Scenario Modeling and Strategic Workforce Planning, Chris Hare and I recently held a discussion on Navigating Uncertainty and Emerging Effectively.