Recent events, such as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, trade wars and disruptions across the globe have made many businesses reexamine how they can stay afloat and remain competitive in their sectors. Many are struggling to cope with the rising demand for skilled talent, the adoption of technology for productivity and the development of innovations that can deliver new revenue streams. Redesigning work can help organizations drive long-term sustainable growth.

Organizations can redesign work that drives performance and business impact through the following five-step approach:

1. Uncover the Skills Gaps

This first step is the crucial process of identifying the gap between current workforce capabilities and what you need in order to achieve business outcomes. Start by conducting an inventory of skills, and create a detailed estimate of the types and extent of skills that your organization will need to execute its strategy for the short- and mid-term. This process will require thoughtful discussions with business leaders, managers and human resources (HR) partners and should be part of the strategic planning process. It is imperative to be explicit and precise when defining the must-have competencies for job roles.

2. Examine How Employees Are Using Skills

Once you have identified talent gaps, the next step is to determine the implications of those gaps: Should you reorganize current and future jobs? How should hiring, onboarding and training change? Are there any new talent sources? Examining how the organization deploys existing talent provides insight on how to improve the use of skills. You can use several tools in this process:

A time-motion survey is a systematic approach to documenting how much time employees spend on each task involved in their job. Use it to identify which processes are time-consuming and laborious and which tasks are redundant or do not add value.

A social network study is a technique used for surfacing and displaying informal interactions among employees. It can reveal which employees are sought out for different types of expertise and their connections to the people who need their skill set.

Analyze work outcomes, and quantify the effectiveness of any given performer or its work processes by:

  • Mapping the current work process, the time it takes and its cost.
  • Comparing the actual and the desired work outcomes.
  • Identifying the employees deployed at each process step.

3. Redefine Jobs

Based on the skills gap analysis, you can redefine jobs so that employees spend more time on the high-value tasks that require their specialized skills. In redesigning jobs, it’s also important to consider the technology that makes employees’ jobs easier. The aim here is to redesign jobs so that employees are using the higher end of their skill set for most of their time. Options for redesigning and deploying jobs include:

Streamline and simplify the workflow. Through the use of more efficient processes or technology and automation, you can make some tasks easier or eliminate them altogether. Doing so will reduce employee fatigue and enable them to concentrate on more dynamic tasks that require human intelligence.

Virtualize work or projects that require scarce skills but do not depend on in-person engagement, and reallocate them to less costly locations. Your performance management system will be essential for tracking and monitoring virtualized work or projects to ensure that the organization achieves its business goals.

Outsource or contract part of the job. If you choose this strategy, consider the implications and costs associated. Will there be a direct impact on the company’s competitive advantage? If so, keep that work within your organization. Consider your engagement strategy; how will you connect with the contractor as a partner, with regular interactions and communications with your internal experts and decision-makers?

Finally, plot the new processes and redesigned job roles to understand the resources you will need to implement them.

4. Deliver the Redesigned Job Solution

Establish a clear communication plan to share information and support throughout implementation. Phase in the skills development interventions for the employees affected by the redesigned jobs. Use pilots, and expand over time. This approach provides opportunities to test new strategies and management processes and to build confidence in the redesigned jobs.

5. Recalibrate Redesigned Job Processes for Continuous Improvement

The redesigned job solutions will be effective only if the organization continuously reviews its work processes, develops employees’ skills for impact and provides adequate resources to support the transition phase.

The strategies outlined here will only be successful when all stakeholders understand how the transformation is relevant to them, recognize what the organization expects of them and are clear on how you will measure their performance. Successful transformation requires a commitment from all stakeholders and the ability to make necessary adjustments for business growth.