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Thinking

Making more informed decisions about the workforce of the future

To keep up and stay ahead of the widespread implications of ‘digital’, organisations must re-skill their workforce, or face being left behind.

The emergence of new digital trends and technologies is changing client and market demand and impacting what problems need to be solved and how to solve them. Digitisation is changing the way people work and drives a need for different skill sets into the future. 

Aurecon’s The Digital Horizon research report reaffirms that re-skilling and upskilling are fundamental for organisations to thrive into the future, but how does an organisation determine which areas are critical to upskill in? In this article, Liam Hayes, Chief People Officer, Aurecon, explores this question, and how to  create a learning environment that delivers once those areas have been identified.  

Traditionally, workforce planning focuses on ‘replacing and growing’ what currently exists. It’s a static, point in time process of counting and projecting the workforce we have today (or what we’ve had in the past) into the future. This linear approach, a part of the annual business planning and budget cycle, ultimately limits an organisations scope to how they view business today.

This approach assumes there is a ‘single’ future that can be predicted, that the current roles or skills we have now will be the roles and skills we will need in the years ahead, and that no other emerging factors will impact our business or workforce in the future. However as revealed in Our Digital Futures research, there is no one single future. The roles and skills needed now will differ from those needed in 12-18 months and again from those in 5-10 years. New trends and technologies will continue to emerge and impact our work environments on an almost daily basis.

A new approach is needed

As digitisation, tech and trends continue to change the world around us, the way we plan our workforce for the future must also evolve. Organisations can no longer rely on our abilities to recruit and develop people in traditional ways, they can no longer continue to do what has always been done and expect a different result. Organisations can no longer implement just one strategy, tick the box and then move on.

To thrive into the future, what is needed today is a new approach to workforce planning that continuously takes a systematic, external view of the market (horizon scanning) and embraces relevant data to inform thinking around workforce planning beyond a 12 month business cycle horizon.

Aurecon is on a path to achieve 50 per cent digital skills across our diverse team by 2023, considering the key drivers of change shaping the needs of our clients over the next 10 years. Instead of assuming we have the right workforce now, and assuming the future will be ‘more of the same’, our new approach to workforce planning for the future seeks to first understand how our current business and workforce might change and then determine how we might improve our current workforce to better respond.

Using Futures Research methodologies, vast data sources, systems thinking and workforce planning approaches, we are clear about the problems we need to solve in the future. We are building an evidence base and capturing insights to enable us to make informed decisions about our future workforce. This then supports actionable workforce strategies which are responsive to changing conditions for our business and markets and will deliver the digital and creative skills needed into the future.

As we scan horizons, sift through data and synthesise what it means for our organisation and our clients, already the makeup of our workforce is changing. As demand grows for new technologies in the property, infrastructure, energy, transport and construction sectors it’s becoming commonplace for graduates to have both a core technical base degree PLUS study in fields such as artificial intelligence, or machine learning. We have established a data and analytics team; embedded digital leaders in our business who work across projects through a digital lens; and acquired Quartile One, a data driven asset management and performance business.

A learning environment that delivers

From organisation to organisation, future scenarios and subsequent strategies will inevitably differ as they align to the specific needs and changing conditions relevant to each business. No matter which path is taken, creating a learning environment that delivers into the future is critical to success.

Organisations leading the way are those that keep skills and knowledge of latest technologies up to date by democratising learning. They create learning ecosystems and partner with providers that connect their workforce with the right content at the right time and make it available to as many people as possible, anytime, anywhere.

At Aurecon learning is continuous, dynamic and accessible to all. With a geographically diverse workforce, providing online learning accessible via mobile devices anytime, is increasingly important. Our learning ecosystem – Aurecon U – builds on the future ready capabilities of our people, harnesses knowledge and wisdom and connects people and skills across the workforce.

And to keep up with the rapid rate that new technologies are being developed and rolled out, we tap into the expertise of universities and other organisations that can develop learning content at the speed required for our business. Our partnership with Archistar (an online learning platform specialising in digital training) has seen us become one of the top organisations for the number of courses completed. 

To realise the full benefits of these platforms and information sources, organisations must have a strategy, set up platforms in a structured way and be clear in defining what the platforms should be used for and how. Failure to do this leads to people opting out and only minimal value achieved. Yet when the right platforms are chosen and established properly, it creates a strong foundation for successful adoption, which enables the ongoing learning and upskilling that is essential to thrive into the future.

The future is team effort

At Aurecon we have made a collective decision to create the future. Organisations that make more informed decisions about the future of their workforce, aligned to their organisational strategy, will be able to be turn the challenges posed by digitisation into an opportunity rather than a threat. 

Adapting to the future requires both organisations and employees to equip themselves with new sills and capabilities.  Although organisations can provide these platforms and opportunities for people to re-skill (based on intel around what may change and how that will impact jobs), most importantly, individuals must take responsibility and ownership of their learning. They have to want to re-skill and if they don’t, their future survival may be challenged. Those with a learning and growth mindset will evolve as professionals and keep their skills relevant for the many possibilities the future will bring. Lifelong learning needs to become the new norm for individuals and organisations, and seen as an investment in the future, not a cost.

The second wave of Our Digital Futures – The Digital Horizon – was released in March 2020. To learn more about the research, visit ‘Our Digital Futures’ at Aurecon.


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About the Author

Liam Hayes is Aurecon’s Chief People Officer. As part of Aurecon’s Group Executive Leadership Team, Liam leads our People team which focuses on providing solutions that enable Aurecon to attract the best talent and develop our people to meet our client’s current and future challenges. Having the right people and creating the right environment allows our people to succeed and realise their dreams.

This article was originally published by Liam Hayes on LinkedIn titled, 'How to make more informed decisions about the future of your workforce'.

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