Human Capital Trends series featuring research from Deloitte– Part 1: Organizational design

Workforce planning and analytics have gained increasing importance in recent years, and that fact has not escaped the notice of business leaders. Deloitte recently released its fourth annual “Global Human Capital Trends” report, which summarizes over 7,000 responses to a survey conducted in over 130 countries globally.

Organization design trends: Dynamic networks of highly empowered teams

In today’s digitally driven economy, companies need to have the ability to adapt to change on-the-fly. Technology is both driving and enabling rapid change throughout organizations—and workforce planning feels the dynamic of this tension.

As a result, many companies have moved away from the traditional hierarchical functional structures in which employees report to one manager, who then reports up the chain to executives. In fact, according to the survey, only 38 percent of all companies and 24 percent of large companies (defined as less than 50,000 employees) are functionally organized.

Let’s take a look at the U.S. military as an example. Highly tactical and strategic, the U.S. Armed Forces is the strongest military force in the world and consists of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Why do I bring up the military? (And no, it’s not because I used to be a Navy helicopter pilot.)

The different military branches all have their own command centers, not to mention additional smaller command centers on specific missions. The different branches and command centers need to be able to collaborate in real time, sharing data from reconnaissance missions and other information to ensure success, tactical and otherwise. Traditionally, operational intelligence information is gathered by one or more separate departments or organizations, then batched and distributed to relevant command centers on a regular basis. But this “batched distribution” of intel wasn’t keeping up with the tactics of the enemy.

In his book, Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal described how he “decentralized authority” and created highly trained teams who were empowered to develop their own real-time information and operations groups, which then were able to collaborate on real-time, accurate data—regardless of where they were located. The result? Flexibility and dynamism, enabling officers to adapt quickly, make mission plan changes on-the-fly, and return back to their “usual” jobs once a mission was completed.

This new way of working has been adopted by companies globally; in fact, over 80 percent of survey respondents said that they are “currently restructuring their organizations or have recently completed the process.” In contrast, a mere 7 percent indicated that they have no plans to restructure.

And no wonder: Pressure to get products to market quickly is steadily increasing, and data shows that smaller teams can work faster and encourage better customer engagement. Additionally, the technology available today helps keep global teams stay aligned. Employees can collaborate via a myriad of different web and mobile apps, sharing information in real time, as opposed to sending messages via email and waiting for approval. Clearly, organizations that fail to adapt lack the flexibility required for success.

What does this “new organization” look like in practice?

In its report, Deloitte highlights Cisco’s Leadership and Team Intelligence talent organization, which focuses on leadership and development, team leader selection, performance management, and information gathering. The senior vice president of this group will use real-time performance conversions, as well as ongoing pulse surveys and text analytics to monitor and benchmark team performance to determine how the best teams work together to drive results. The findings will then be shared with the rest of the company, with a focus on improving employee engagement and empowerment.

How should you start building a new, better way to plan for and manage the workforce that is going to drive your organization forward?

First, set up a real-time information platform to bring together all the information you need from across the company—from your financials and your HRIS, to your third-party salary benchmarks and your application tracking system—so that your organization’s team leaders across the business and at any level can view their team data in one place and visualized in a digestible way. Doing this arms your leaders with the right intel to better build a best-in-class team. Check out my blog from last year’s HR Tech conference, particularly around Marcus Buckingham’s keynote discussion of building best-in-class teams and organizations to learn more about this concept.

Second, that platform needs to be able to help you build intelligence on top of the data that you’ve gathered. Adopt new tools and methods for measuring your workforce today and against your forecast, combining analytics and workforce planning capabilities to help your team leaders gain the foresight to anticipate changes to their business—whether internally or externally driven—and how they may impact your people plans. For example, look at skills capacities by role against forecasted needs, then determine whether those skills can be developed internally, hired or contracted for (depending on your budget), the urgency of the skills demanded, and the length of time needed. The tools will include predictive analytics to predict, for example, the right staffing mix for a project—or in the case of an hourly worker, against forecasted demand. Perhaps it’s finding your next leaders by looking at a variety of metrics such as an employee’s “network effect.” Or it might be predicting the impact of a reorg on revenue and cost, and deciding on the best solution among a list of alternative scenarios. The tools in your platform also need to offer modeling versatility to adjust those plans and models, without requiring help from IT, which may otherwise hold you back from iterating to improve your plans and models.

Third, connect your operational plans back to your strategic. Today’s technology makes this possible. Having a single platform that holds a real-time level of performance regardless of scale enables those operational people plans, even for hourly staff optimization scenarios, to connect to and inform your strategic plans. Now you have a closed loop workforce planning process from strategic, to operational, to tactical, and back again, and you can continuously track forecast accuracy in order to continuously iterate on your models.

With a planning platform that offers the strategic and operational intelligence about your workforce, with the tools to surface and visualize key people information, plan scenarios, act on the best plan, track results and adjust, you have set your teams up for success. Now your leaders can help you plan and optimize all aspects of the employee lifecycle to find the right people, grow the skills of and optimally deploy your people, and retain your top performers.

Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, which will feature highlights from the leadership section of the Deloitte report. Download the full report here.

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