It is no secret that business leaders and organisations are under enormous pressure to become more nimble and agile if they are to grow their position in tomorrow’s global market place. As they face increased market volatility, changing workforce demographics, increased demands for flexibility and a constant demand to do more with less, understanding how to best leverage their people capability in a timely and efficient manner will be critical.

While we’ve often heard it said that the key to effective workforce planning lies in ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time, doing so in a rapidly changing environment is often far more difficult and complex than anticipated. With many change processes eating up time, it is not unusual for new business needs to emerge midway that require organisations and individuals to pivot or change direction. Doing this seamlessly is the challenge.

According to the 2015 Hay Group report, Delivering Strategy Through People, direct people costs make up 40% of organisational costs. With almost half the workforce in complex, knowledge-intensive roles that are key to the organisation’s success and profitability, the cost of getting the people puzzle wrong is high. While the phrase “right people, right place, right time” certainly isn’t redundant, there is a view that it needs expanding to ensure that it remains relevant and impactful.

No longer are the right people necessarily part of our organisational headcount. With access to the right talent and skills – and a growing self-employed and contract-led workforce – accessing external talent pools for one-off requirements and interim projects is often a real and viable option. How we identify and engage the right people with these relevant skills in a timely manner is key and will require strong partnerships and relationships not only with our own people but also those in the external market.

Where the term “right place” once tended to refer to a geographical location, it is now more appropriate to consider what role or area within the organisation the skills are required. As we continue to move away from traditional hierarchical organisational structures to flatter more matrixed team-based models, how we enable our people to move with agility and confidence into the as required will be critical.

As businesses continue to navigate unprecedented amounts of change they will be required to make quick decisions around how they (re)deploy the skills and talents of their people to capitalise on emerging opportunities or manage risk. They need an agile and resilient workforce that can nimbly move and respond at the “right time” and is not change-averse.

There is no doubt that the optimal workforce lies at the intersection of all three areas. Failing to do get the people puzzle right will leave business leaders feeling like they are sitting on a two-legged stool. When you are out of balance, it is all too easy to end up with too many people sitting on the bench, no longer aligned to the organisational strategy.

4 key tips to completing the people puzzle:

  1. Know where your skills are: Both within your organisation and in the external marketplace.
  2. Foster agility: Help your people develop agile mindsets to support changing workplace structures.
  3. Make it easy for people to adapt: Consider the systems and processes that support changing roles, teams and locations.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate: Ensure transparency and timely communication is delivered to support engagement and productivity.