In my previous blog post, I outlined why banks and insurers can expect to run into a serious skills crunch over the next decade. To compete in this brave new world, HR organizations in financial services companies will need to shift from reactive, supply-side fulfillment of skills to proactive, demand-side fulfillment.

“Just-in-time” processes helped manufacturing companies reduce costs and improve flexibility by getting materials delivered immediately before they’re needed for production. Likewise, HR organizations will need to develop a “just-in-time” workforce—one that enables them to instantly find and deploy skills when and where they’re required in the business.

The following practices can help create a just-in-time workforce:

Advise the business on how best to close skills gaps. Marketing experts use data modeling, analysis and deep domain expertise to advise the business on how to drive customer acquisition and retention. HR professionals can likewise use data modeling, analysis and deep labor expertise to help their organizations figure out how to get needed skills.

As advisers to the business, HR professionals can also weigh factors like the cost and time to learn new skills, the implications of learning delivered through social media tools and the cost and ease of finding highly qualified candidates. By using data-driven sourcing strategies, HR professionals can constantly adjust the equation to determine the best solutions to skills challenges.

Manage a large extended workforce. HR can start supporting dynamically configured teams of workers who may not be employees at all. In organizations that use such teams, full-time employees sit at the center of an ever-shifting, diverse global pool of contractors, temporary staff, business partners, outsourcing providers, the general public, and “talent in the cloud,” or individuals sourced over the Internet to perform work on a transactional basis.

HR professionals will need to know how to manage talent that stretches beyond the organization’s walls. Recruiting professionals and hiring managers won’t wait for talent to find them. Instead, they’ll proactively seek out the talent they need and use analytics to quickly identify and attract the best individuals.

Foster external global talent mobility. Financial services organizations are increasingly finding the skills they need in locations other than where those skills are needed. To surmount this challenge, HR professionals will need to know how to locate, source and manage talent on a global basis. They will also need to adopt virtual work policies and lobby for government policies that enable skills to flow to where they’re most in demand.

Support internal talent mobility. HR will also need to help internal employees move to where their skills are needed inside the organization. HR professionals should help create frictionless internal talent markets where talented employees and the managers who need them can readily find each other.

Make skills development part of everyday work. HR organizations will need to help current employees make learning new skills a component of their everyday work. Activities like peer-to-peer learning through social media can be far more helpful in this effort than slower-moving educational institutions or traditional training departments.

Make work fully transparent. HR organizations will need to make skills requirements transparent to employees, educational institutions and the broader community. To do so, they can forge new partnerships with educational institutions as well as create mechanisms that give the general public visibility into the world of work. Examples of such mechanisms include simulated games, short virtual internships, “vocation vacations” where new roles can be tried out temporarily for a few days at a time, and videos showing employees doing actual work using real skills.

In the future, businesses will likely demand higher-level, more complex skills than those required today. Yet such skills will be increasingly difficult to obtain. Moreover, to compete in a fast-changing economy, financial services organizations will have to continually redefine the mix of skills that they draw on. They may also need to quickly bring new skills in while phasing existing ones out. This will demand a new capability in HR in the future.

HR organizations that develop a “just-in-time” workforce capability—through the development of a large extended workforce; a proactive, global and data-driven talent sourcing strategy; and a highly mobile, fluid workforce—will be well placed to help their companies source the skills they need to compete in an era of ongoing change in technology and consumer behavior.

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