The past two years have marked a seismic shift in the way companies manage, motivate, and retain their employees as hybrid work models and a more flexible work environment became commonplace. However, this has created new challenges, as many of the roles within the organisation changed or became obsolete.

According to Genevieve Koolen, Human Resources Director at SAP Africa, many companies are now having to implement strategies to redeploy skilled employees to other areas of the business. “What started out as an emergency measure to maintain productivity during the early stages of the pandemic has now become an embedded issue, where the duties of highly-skilled workers in some roles are being replaced or become entirely obsolete.”

The changing role of managers

One example of this change is the way managers are having to shift to other roles that don’t necessarily involve direct management of employees.

“Companies have long taken a bums-in-seats approach to productivity and accountability that demanded that employees commute to a central office and work under the watchful gaze of their manager,” says Koolen. “One of the most surprising outcomes of the shift to work-from-home during the first year of the pandemic is the extent to which most professionals could self-manage. In some cases managers have become unnecessary to the smooth running of the business, resulting in a situation where their key skills need to be redeployed lest the business risks losing them to competitors.”

According to Harvard Business Review, managers were traditionally selected and promoted based on their ability to manage and drive the performance of employees. However, the acceleration in the use of technology to improve workplace management combined with the impact of the pandemic has radically changed the situation at many organisations.

Retaining high-value talent and experience

“Managers and other high-value roles within organisations are having to shift focus and apply their skills in new areas,” says Koolen. “These changes are not always easy for either the employee or the organisation, but it is essential that companies implement policies and processes to retain their skills, as the employees often have extensive corporate knowledge that would take years for a replacement to learn.”

According to Koolen, companies that can successfully redeploy these workers to other areas of the business will more easily retain their skills and ensure the organisation benefits from their expertise and experience.

“Redeploying senior or specialist skills within the organisation can boost talent retention, drive cost savings, improve flexibility and efficiency and help build a more consistent company culture. However, it can be tricky to develop a strategy for redeployment that consistently delivers value to the business and employees.”

Koolen offers four tips to assist organisations with developing a successful talent redeployment strategy:

#1 Focus on skills, not tasks or titles

Instead of trying to find a like-for-like role within the organisation – for example, a sales role in another department – focus on the employee’s skills and match those skills to another area of the business that can benefit from more access to those skills. “Managers, for example, often have inherent skills, experience and corporate knowledge that can help coach less experienced team members and enhance their capabilities, to the benefit of the broader organisation.”

#2 Embed lifelong learning into the company culture

According to McKinsey, one in sixteen workers will need to find a different occupation by 2030 as technology and other trends drive huge changes in how we work and what skills are required. “No one is immune to the disruptive influence of technology,” says Koolen. “Companies wishing to retain high-value skills in the long term must build a culture of lifelong learning that allows employees to continuously develop new skills and expertise that can add value in specific areas within the business.”

#3 Accurately match skills to business needs

Successful redeployment depends on having the right person at the right time for a specific task or duty. “In larger organisations, finding the right match is nearly impossible to do manually,” says Koolen. “Instead, companies need to build a comprehensive technology-led talent platform that brings visibility to the available skills within the organisation, and allows business and HR leaders to easily identify candidates for redeployment based on business and employee needs.”

#4 Keep in tune with employee expectations

New AI and analytics-driven employee experience tools can help companies keep their finger on the pulse of employee expectations by constantly getting real-time feedback on a broad spectrum of culture and workplace metrics. “Companies that can effectively use employee experience tools are more likely to take the right course of action to improve productivity, innovation, talent planning and people-led initiatives. When done well, this offers companies the opportunity to turn employees into ambassadors while driving positive business outcomes.”

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