Hybrid Workforce Models Speed Digital Transformation

November 03, 2020

Contributor: Jackie Wiles

Hybrid workforce models can increase agility and resilience, drive competitive differentiation and save money. Talent analytics help HR leaders to capture these opportunities.

The pace of digital transformation continues to accelerate as organizations everywhere reset business strategy in response to COVID-19. But many organizations already face a lack of digital skills that could stall their transformation initiatives. The good news: The pandemic has also driven a range of new workforce trends and workplace norms that create a window of opportunity for HR and other business leaders to leverage new hybrid workforce models.

“ Where, and when, work gets done will be determined by what makes the most sense to drive the highest levels of productivity and engagement ”

Hybrid workforce planning is a deliberate design that enables employees to flow through various work sites — from remote solo locations and microsites of small populations to traditional concentrated facilities (offices, factories, retail, etc.). 

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At the heart of a hybrid workforce model are the ideas of shared ownership and trust, which helps organizations break down long-held beliefs and potential myths about where and how work gets done most effectively. 

“Employers, managers and employees will share ownership of hybrid work decisions, with a common expectation that employees can switch locations dynamically and without a fixed or rigid pattern,” says George Penn, VP, Gartner. “Where, and when, work gets done will be determined by what makes the most sense to drive the highest levels of productivity and engagement.”

Hybrid workforce model has business and cost benefits

Many organizations have been forced during the pandemic to manage a distributed workforce, scattered by location and disrupted by outside distractions. Hybrid workforce planning provides HR and other business leaders — and managers and employees — with the means and opportunity to rethink organizational structures, roles and work design in entirely new ways.

Managers will need to trust in the goals they have set — and trust employees to work productively against those goals, regardless of location. Employees will need to be flexible and comfortable moving between various work environments when the need arises.

“ Talent and labor market analytics provide the ammunition to drive hybrid workforce decisions about skills needs, locations and costs ”

While potentially challenging, hybrid workforce models can deliver against some of the most critical needs for organizations today, especially if HR leaders leverage talent analytics to guide their decision making. Hybrid models provide agility and resilience, help drive competitive differentiation and contain costs. Importantly, these benefits can be derived in tandem, not at the expense of one another.

For example, hybrid models enable organizations to focus on acquiring the critical skills they need to drive competitive advantage, not on filling key roles. Those skills, directly deployed to drive innovation and growth, can potentially be located remotely or in lower-cost locations — reducing talent  acquisition and facilities costs. 

HR and business leaders can simultaneously work directly with the CFO to drive alignment around the investments and costs needed to fund competitive differentiation.

Actions for HR

“Talent and labor market analytics provide the ammunition to drive hybrid workforce decisions about skills needs, locations and costs,” says Scott Engler, VP, Advisory, Gartner. “Those decisions are what will enable the accelerated pace of digital transformation in a cost-effective way.” 

These are among the next steps for HR:

  1. Locate emerging pools of affordable digital talent. Under traditional models, organizations may have discounted certain talent pools because they were outside the existing footprint. Now, they can explore emerging hubs — talent pools that have a solid supply of relevant skills at a low to medium salary cost. Gartner TalentNeuron™ data shows, for example, that the fast-growing IT sectors in Hyderabad, India, and Metro Manila, Philippines, are now potentially productive hiring grounds.
  2. Identify emerging skills. To identify the critical skills needed to drive competitive advantage, gauge your internal skill set versus those of competitors. Leading tech companies, for example, are seeking skills in natural language understanding and neural networks, while all companies are looking for skills in artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity. Know what skills you need, and how quickly you can amass them.
  3. Hire for transportable skills, not industry experience. As certain skills are related to others in a way that might not seem obvious. look for candidates who can easily expand their skills to the entirety of what’s needed for the role you’re trying to fill. In this way, you expand the size of the talent pool through “skills adjacencies.” 
  4. Target the total skills market. Organizations and recruiters rely heavily on trusted sources of talent, but those traditional routes are constraining. Expand your sourcing strategy and flex your criteria and processes to make sure you don’t exclude qualified candidates. For example, map internal skills to find talent that may have acquired skills through a nontraditional credentialing route (e.g., by being self-taught), and make sure interview processes are inclusive (e.g., don’t disqualify neurodiverse talent).

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