Why all Organizations Will Need a Chief Workforce Officer

Predicting the future of work usually goes down the same avenues: automation, job losses, artificial intelligence and the blockchain. What isn’t often mentioned is the critical need for organisations to adopt more agile workforces – and what this means for the upper echelons of management. Namely, the creation of a new role: the Chief Workforce Officer.

Why workforces are changing

Increasing globalization and market pressures are creating a more difficult environment for businesses to operate in. Organizations have to adapt to quick-changing client needs and fluctuations. One way for them to achieve this is to move towards a more on-demand workforce. Building in non-permanent workers into their talent pool as well as using automation and robotics where appropriate.

This creates a workforce comprising total talent, which is a term used to describe a new way of managers getting stuff done. Using permanent or non-permanent talent, alumni, new recruits or technology. In today’s competitive era, it can no longer be ignored. Not if businesses want to use the best talent available.

How businesses have to adapt

Therefore, business leaders need to come to grips with this changing talent pool quickly and adapt their operations to it. That is a tall order, considering that legacy HR processes and systems cannot adequately deal with this new workforce.

This is partly because non-permanent talent naturally has different needs to permanent workers. Their temporary nature means its a lot more difficult to engage with them, especially if they work remotely. Water-cooler chat and the usual interactions that foster team-building and company culture don’t occur as often, if at all. Certain tools, such as Slack, may help bridge this gap. More importantly, however, is the employer’s motivation to actively engage with its total talent.

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Which conveniently introduces another aspect to managing total talent: improving the employer brand. Engineering firm AECOM has done this well through its contractor network that was designed to facilitate connections and communication between permanent managers and non-permanent workers. Through this method, it actively engages with contractors even when they aren’t working on a project. Leading them to be more available (and visible) on-demand if a sudden resourcing need arises.

The default method of resourcing a job or project also needs to evolve beyond just hiring a permanent employee. There needs to be a cultural change, starting with the board. No organisation-wide change occurs without leadership buy-in.

The need for a leader

So, the only way for a business to address these many changes is through action at the very top, with an expert who is able to see the potential in the changing workforce, how their organisation can grab the opportunities offered, and how to prepare. A chief workforce officer, in other words.

This individual will have oversight on all talent in a company and would have ultimate ownership of the organisation’s total talent strategy. That is, making sure their company has the right talent, tools and critical skills in place to meet its current and future business objectives. They will also have to be a thought leader, because total talent is still a new concept for many organisations.

The rise of a dedicated position within the C-suite signals significant changes to the workforce. It isn’t something that businesses can opt-out of, this need for better organisational agility is coming for everyone. In the future, when all talent is up-for-grabs, the companies with strong leadership and processes that can support all workers, will be industry front-runners.

Chris Milligan

Chris Milligan
Chris Milligan is CEO and founder of Adepto, a total talent platform.

Chris Milligan

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