Change is constant, and agile organizations not only anticipate change but also look at change as a positive force.
In the 3 A’s of Organizational Agility, we found that successful organizations anticipate, adapt, and act throughout disruption. Environmental scanning is a crucial step to viewing change as expected and manageable. One of the top traits of agile leaders is an increased capability for sensing the external environment.
External environmental scanning is how workforce planning professionals stay alert to changes in the labor market, overall business environment, etc. Outputs of the sensing process can be used to validate an idea, build a business case and generate support, and shift or refine a strategy.
Here’s what we found through our discussions.
How do you approach the scanning/sensing process?
When determining which source(s) to use and the level of granularity needed, define the challenge or opportunity in the context of your organization first. Then consider how the topic comes up across multiple sources. There is a balance to providing varied perspectives but not too many that it becomes overwhelming and next steps are inconclusive. Consider these steps in the environmental scanning process:
- Identify if this is something that could, has, or will impact our workforce.
- Identify if this is a topic that has been addressed by multiple resources.
- Identify the common and varied perspectives across resources.
- Focus on the perspectives in the context of our organization. Consider comparing the external data with internal data to validate the relevance.
Who should you involve in the external environmental scanning process?
We involve a variety of other people including functional area leadership, HRBPs, legal, data scientist teams, risk, ERGs, and even actuaries.
Who do you share the data with and why?
“The goal should always be speed from sending to insight to action.” Shayne Elliott, CEO at ANZ Bank
High-performing organizations are far more likely to share data and insights from sensing/scanning at least quarterly to the mid-level and sometimes even frontline leaders.
From i4cp’s 2017 i4cp Agility study:
- The head of HR at Disney Consumer Products & Interactive Media adjusted the focus of his weekly HR staff meeting.
- It now includes an emphasis on identifying what they refer to as low-level signals that may affect the business.
- In one meeting, an HR business partner may be responsible for sharing insights gleaned from discussions with the business she supports.
- In another meeting, the person leading an HR center of expertise may be responsible for sharing insights gleaned from reading a research report from i4cp or the WEF
When we share our outputs as an inspirational narrative, it builds confidence and buy-in. Sometimes it also gives us the space to challenge our thinking, too.
The Workforce Planning Exchange is a research-driven working group that explores how high-performance organizations outdistance others in strategic workforce planning effectiveness, where members collaborate with each other to develop and share tools and practices that will aid in building their organization’s workforce planning capability.
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