Five ways to lead a business in the 21st century

Our workplaces are being disrupted at an unprecedented pace and keeping on top of trends is a non-negotiable part of 21st century management for leaders.

In many countries, companies struggle with an ageing workforce as well as global skills shortages, rapidly shifting demands from customers and employees, and growing pressures to be diverse and inclusive.

" Our workplaces are being disrupted at an unprecedented pace and keeping on top of trends is a non-negotiable for leaders."
Tim Nelson, MD, Korn Ferry Hay Group

Many organisations are functioning in a continuous change cycle and business leaders need to be highly agile to manage modern workforces. 

To respond to massive and rapid change, business leaders know they must be able to anticipate how changing strategies and business models will alter their organisations’ workforce needs. They can benefit greatly from a more structured approach, what we call 'strategic workforce planning'.


Strategic workforce planning is the practice of mapping an organisation’s people strategy with its business strategy so they work in sync.

This approach delivers two critical advantages: it helps leaders understand whether they have or can obtain the workforce to execute their business strategy. It also assists HR leaders in reorganising, shaping and deploying the workforce to deliver on their company’s business objectives.

When done well, strategic workforce planning helps ensure organisations have the right workforce, today and tomorrow, at the right cost.

But strategic workforce planning is complex and can be difficult to execute well. A workforce does not behave in a linear fashion; it flows as people are promoted or transferred, take sabbaticals, resign, and retire.

So, even once it’s clear what the future workforce needs to look like — in itself no easy task — mapping how to get there requires a deep understanding of the current workforce, sophisticated scenario planning, detailed HR analytics, and suitable modelling tools.

Because business conditions change so swiftly, strategies also must be reviewed and updated regularly to account for opportunities and threats as they arise.


Although many organisations struggle with this complexity, there are those who do it well. They have the right framework, tools, and processes and can accurately identify and establish the right workforce at the right cost to execute their business strategies.

At Korn Ferry Hay Group we have developed a framework we call ‘5 RightS’ to help businesses translate their strategies into what they need from their future workforce within a framework of; right shape, right skills, right size, right site, and right spend.

To map an accurate vision of the future workforce, business leaders must understand how each one of the five elements in the framework affects the workforce and, by extension, the business.

Right Size: getting the right amount of staff to reach strategic goals efficiently and effectively.Right Skills: identifying gaps in people’s skills, so a business can plan its workforce the right way.

Right Shape: getting the structure right doesn’t just mean that everything will run smoothly. It’ll also help enable and motivate staff.

Right Site: as a business continues to grow, it’s important to make sure it has the right people in the right places.

Right Spend: Invest the right amounts and spend less on the wrong things.

In a volatile business environment, business leaders need to plan for inevitable change so they can anticipate and deliver the workforce the organisation will need.

The business case for strategic workforce planning is already made. But the process is complex, and its complexity makes it hard to implement well.

There is obviously no exact answer here but we believe a structure like The 5 RightS — size, skills, shape, size, site and spend — provides a framework to translate the business objectives into a clear picture of the required future workforce; the first stage of strategic workforce planning.

Tim Nelson is the MD of Korn Ferry Hay Group in Australasia, the preeminent global people and organisational advisory firm.

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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