While some people in the global services industry think that large scale unemployment and the slowdown in growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic may reduce the talent demand-supply gap, we wholeheartedly disagree. Indeed, we believe that strategic workforce planning has become even more critical for the global services industry.
Here are four reasons why organizations need to accelerate their workforce initiatives right now.
Talent shortages will become acute
A survey we conducted in early 2020 found that, even before the COVID-19 crisis, 86 percent of enterprises considered the talent shortage a key barrier to achieving business outcomes. This situation will further exacerbate. It’s true that the impending economic downturn could lead to even more unemployment and oversupply in the talent market. However, the available skills profiles may not necessarily match organizations’ current and future requirements, especially because highly skilled talent is expected to be retained even during downsizing. Increasing focus on automation and digital transformation will further widen the demand-supply gap for skills, making it difficult for organizations to source suitable skills internally or in the open market. The prevailing circumstances (e.g., the lockdown, financial distress, and health issues) may impact overall talent employability in the open market, further compounding the talent availability issue.
Rapid digital transformation is inevitable, and it will intensify the demand-supply gap
COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation across organizations. It has not only reinforced the utility of tech-enabled platforms and advanced automation for seamless service delivery during mandatory Work-From-Home (WFH) protocols, but also enabled organizations to react to the evolving business environment and customer needs faster. The impending budget cliff and business model changes will further push organizations to prioritize digital transformation, which will have implications on the talent needed both to drive this change and to deliver services after transformation. Demand for emerging skills will spike even faster, again creating the need for reskilling, alternative talent models, and productivity enhancement. We are already seeing a spike in hiring by companies like Amazon and Google. Some firms are seeing this as an opportune time to acqui-hire – or acquire startups primarily for their talent. Leading global banks, healthcare firms, and manufacturing firms are rethinking their talent strategies.
Supposedly foolproof location and BCP strategies did not work in the face of this pandemic
COVID-19 has exposed key issues with enterprises’ and service providers’ existing locations strategy and Business Continuity Planning (BCP) approaches. Nearly three-quarters of enterprises that have offshore/nearshore GBS centers operate in only one location. Even enterprises with multiple GBS centers have a high concentration of talent in their largest center. Others have developed centers of excellence with large portions of their workforce for a specific function consolidated in a few locations. Less than 10 percent of GBS centers were truly prepared for a seamless WFH model. Companies will need to re-evaluate their redundancy matrices and location/portfolio mixes to achieve a more robust BCP. Some seemingly obvious responses to locations portfolio questions may not apply anymore.
WFH is here-to-stay
A 2017-18 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that nearly 30 percent of the American workforce could work remotely. The extended lockdown in the near term and a high utilization, once the COVID-19 crisis has abated, will likely make WFH an integral component of the overall service delivery model. This change will have significant talent implications – motivation, employee engagement, performance metrics, reporting metrics, communication protocols, and collaboration – which organizations will need to proactively address to optimize productivity and enhance output.
COVID-19 has precipitated a fundamental shift in the way we work. There are underlying opportunities for enterprises and service providers that proactively adapt to the new normal. We believe there are four immediate steps that enterprises must take:
- Review your enterprise global workforce strategy
- Develop a roadmap for skills development initiatives
- Review your locations portfolios and BCP strategy
- Build a playbook for integrating WFH and crowdsourcing into your services delivery models