Getting ahead of the global workforce crisis

Mar 7, 2018
6 MIN. READ
As emerging technologies replace low-skilled workers, the need for high-skilled ones will increase dramatically — are we ready to fill the gap?

Ranier Strack, an international human resources expert for a global business firm, recently predicted a significant decline in the supply of talent, worldwide. Over the course of a TED Talk on the issue, Strack pointed to the troubling future of the German economy: as workers in that population begin to retire en masse over the next decade, the nation will face an increasing demand for talent — one they simply can’t meet.

Not convinced? Consider this: Of the world's 15 largest economies, responsible for 70 percent of the world's GDP, 12 are projected to face a labor shortage by 2030. As emerging technologies replace low-skilled workers, the need for high-skilled ones will increase dramatically.

Strack stressed that every organization needs a workforce strategy that addresses this “global workforce crisis.” He proposed four approaches to workforce planning, the first of which urges all of us to get ahead of the “crisis curve” by prioritizing a need for talent supply and demand forecasting.

Optimizing for The Present Isn’t Enough

I recently worked on a very successful workforce planning project for a client organization. After it ended, I took a short pause to muse: what made the project go so smoothly? So many factors made a difference including a well-organized, capable client project leader; committed client leadership; and a project team of highly skilled colleagues. We also had all of the right data and resources, which helped capitalize on those interpersonal strengths. Perhaps above all else, though, our client was eager to emphasize the future, and the things that would help them understand when a talent shortfall was on the horizon.

Many workforce plans emphasize recruiting and attracting great employees; training and developing current staff; and retaining talented employees through motivation and performance incentives. This project, though, also considered talent forecasting based on workforce supply and demand. As a human capital consultant, it’s exciting to work with an organization that values workforce planning as much as financial and technological planning because I know that it can help them tremendously down the line. A proactive and attentive balance between workforce supply and demand for highly skilled and available talent leads to goal achievement, greater productivity and employee satisfaction.

Striking a Balance Between Talent Supply and Demand: Key Questions and Resources

When an organization seeks to discover a good balance between talent supply and demand, defining the organization’s strategic business goals, strengths, opportunities, and challenges is an essential first step. Any changes in the workforce needs to align with the organization’s future direction, key business drivers, and other factors impacting the current and future missions, products, and services.

Qualitative and quantitative data both add an important dimension to a complicated puzzle. Using a more qualitative approach that examines the demand for talent — such as conducting interviews with business leaders, holding focused group discussions with selected staff, and reviewing competency models by occupation — produces a clearer understanding of the skills and abilities they’ll need to recruit. Quantitative analysis of things like retirement eligibility, salary level, mission essential occupations, promotions, and years of service paints a good picture of the organization’s broader staffing needs for the future and the internal supply of talent.

To get to the meat of these data, though, you have to be asking the right questions. A few that have helped my team and me included:

  • What factors might influence talent supply and demand for your organization or business?
  • How can you find out what the labor market will look like in next 10 years for mission essential occupations in your business or organization?
  • How does your current workforce match up to the skills needed to achieve your strategic business goals?

It’s important to seek out reliable forecasting resources. Two that I’d recommend:

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook: What you will find in this terrific resource is a wealth of information by occupational groups (e.g., community and social services) and specific occupations (e.g., social workers) that project growth, the long-term job outlook over the next ten years, and other useful data.
  • Projection Central: This site features short- and long-term projections for hundreds of occupations by state, which means that you can also extract the data for comprehensive state-by-state comparisons. By comparing internal talent with talent supply across geographical location and occupation, an employer is able to make data-driven decisions about its current workforce. This kind of insight can also inform an outreach and recruiting strategy across different regions, market places, and academic settings.

One thing is certain — there’s no crystal ball or “best guess” when it comes to meeting the workforce crisis head-on. Take a data-driven approach that enables a clear prediction of supply and demand. What methods or tactics are you using to develop your workforce planning? Tell us about resources or questions we missed on Facebook or LinkedIn.

By Barbara Smith
Senior Technical Specialist
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