We recently hosted a virtual roundtable in partnership with the Business Transformation Network on ‘The Evolving Role of Talent Acquisition in Workforce Planning and DE&I’ focussing on the Life Sciences sector. The roundtable addressed two threads of conversation in-depth: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) and Critical Workforce Planning.

Life Sciences organisations are at the forefront of the media as they lead the way in the fight against Covid-19. This recent attention has garnered keen interest from job seekers as well as put the spotlight on talent acquisition functions to supply the talent to deliver the organisations goals.

Workforce planning and DE&I are important topics for talent acquisition leaders and assessing the impact the last 12 months have had is integral to understanding how we can continue to drive them forwards in a more strategic manner.

We have seen, almost overnight, that entire segments of the workforce have shifted to remote working patterns, with organisations embracing and adopting digital practices quicker and more readily than before, in order to survive. Only now are we beginning to feel the impacts of this. In addition, there has been an immense social shift that is impacting talent at all stages (attraction, retention and engagement), so how do we begin to assess the impact on how we are working now, and in the near and long-term future?

Missing critical roles will have a significant impact on your business goals
Talent acquisition (TA) needs to be delivering against the business strategy and workforce planning is not agile enough. Most businesses have had to become more responsive in the past year, which has created a need for something more pragmatic than strategic workforce planning, and more agile for the day to day. This is where critical workforce planning comes into play.

Within an organisation, around 10-15% of roles are deemed ‘critical’ and the risks to business goals, if they are not filled when needed, are significant.

It seemed that most attendees were focused on arming themselves with the right talent for the short to mid-term pipeline, as the landscape is frequently changing and we are constantly having to adjust.

An intriguing point that came up here was around how we are talking a lot about ‘digital’ and ‘digitalisation’, but they are quite vague concepts and have different applications across the different areas of the business. This means that for workforce planning and the incoming talent, it is as much about knowledge and skillset as it is about competencies and leadership capabilities. This shifted the conversation to focus on critical, adjacent and transferable skills and the way in which they have changed.

Recognising adjacent and transferable skills is crucial for future hiring
Following on in the conversation, we looked at how many organisations are now looking at mindset and behaviours, as much as skills and competencies, as these will be useful in the uncertain future. Attendees recognised that as the industry is so specific, you often end up poaching each other’s talent, when really you can bring people in from different markets and develop them, as they will bring a fresh perspective.

There was an interesting piece here around building talent communities on skillsets, whilst increasing the drive on internal development. The apprenticeship levy has been a really beneficial way of developing talent internally, improving DE&I and growing the skills you need. This recognition of adjacent and transferable skills is integral to workforce planning and DE&I. By recognising that there are transferable skills both inside and outside the organisation that can be utilised to fill skills gaps which will help to build talent pools.

Educate around workforce planning
Education plays a big part in workforce planning success. When talking about workforce planning, many people think it’s a headcount forecast, which it isn’t. Educating people to differentiate the two, is really important. As critical workforce planning is more about what is needed now, and strategic workforce planning takes a longer-term view, you will need to use a combination of the two. For substantial change in the way organisations are approaching workforce planning, there needs to be education around what it means and why we need it, alongside continual challenging of the norms and historic processes.

Senior leadership alignment provides insight that is missing
Attendees agree that if you can only do one thing to tackle these issues, it should be the alignment of senior leadership to help develop an understanding of business plans and goals, then you can plan accordingly. This was an integral part for successful evolution as working together with senior leadership will allow better transparency, which will allow talent teams to progress to a more strategic place.

Traditional notions of DE&I are not the whole picture
Traditional notions of DE&I no longer accurately portray the bigger picture. The general consensus amongst attendees was that given the social transformations of 2020, many more organisations had begun to focus more on their DE&I agenda with pace. Attendees expressed how pleased they were that changes were being made for DE&I to evolve, but also acknowledge how concerning it is that it took the events of 2020 to encourage this advancement.

A fascinating thread of conversation here explored how flexibility doesn’t mean inclusion, as some people cannot work remotely, or with certain software, but it has been the driver for better diversity within many organisations. This also ties back into the transferable and adjacent skills discussion, as opening a talent pool based on skills and capability, as opposed to set boundaries, like education level, will provide a better opportunity for diverse hiring.

Communicate what you are doing within DE&I initiatives
Attendees expressed that they had many DE&I initiatives taking place both globally and locally, but their organisations were nervous to discuss them externally. They recognised that communication is an integral part of driving DE&I initiatives, recognising that it is a fantastic way to be transparent as a brand and share your journey authentically. In turn this will attract a more diverse talent pool.

If there is a time to be talking about your organisation's purpose and drive it is now, because people are so focused on purpose, belonging and wellbeing. By talking about what you are doing you can promote authenticity and further drive DE&I in your organisation and others.

 Taking the above into account it was agreed that the most important aspects for the evolution of TA in workforce planning and DE&I returned to three key points:

  • Senior leadership alignment provides critical insight for planning
    Having a representative at C-suite level, where all the decisions are being made, is integral to developing a fuller picture of where the business is going. You can then build a workforce plan to accommodate these more long-term developments in advance.
  • Recognising adjacent and transferable skills is crucial for future hiring
    This is integral to workforce planning and DE&I. By recognising that there are transferable skills both inside and outside the organisation that can be utilised to fill skills gaps, will help to fill talent pools.
  • Communicate what you are doing within DE&I initiatives
    Many organisations are doing a lot in the space of D&I, but most aren't communicating it internally or externally. Promoting authenticity is the secret to attracting a more diverse talent pool, resulting in a more diverse workforce.

Watch the replay webinar here.