6 minute read 30 Jun 2021
Two employees checking production on tablet and notepad

How to redesign jobs for a future-ready workforce

By Jia Yong Goh

Partner, People Advisory Services – Workforce Advisory, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd.

People consulting professional. Experienced in supporting digital and workforce transformation. Professional Singapore Certified Management Consultant with TUV SUD.

6 minute read 30 Jun 2021

Job redesign will be critical to long-term agility as the COVID-19 pandemic offers an unprecedented opportunity to reshape the workforce.

In brief

  • The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for job redesign to stay agile in the face of disruptions and build a future-ready workforce.
  • Job redesign can be implemented in a structured manner using a three-step approach.
  • An ecosystem approach involving the government and other stakeholders is required for job redesign on the national level.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt operations and accelerate digital adoption, preparing the workforce for the new normal calls for more than changes to existing processes. Job redesign — which seeks to find a more optimal combination of tasks in a job role to enhance efficiency and productivity — has become a key consideration for businesses to maintain long-term competitiveness and agility in the face of disruptions.

Job redesign can enhance existing job roles, or create new ones, such as a data analyst role within an operations team. The concept of job redesign is not new. What is new is adopting a structured way to redesign and reimagine how jobs are done — based on the four key facets of organizational strategy and structure, processes and tasks, technology and people. This structured approach is critical to the effectiveness of job redesign efforts, given the interdependence of the four facets. For example, changes in the organizational strategy can drive the adoption of new technologies, which in turn requires upskilling and the creation of a culture that supports digitalization.

A three-step approach can be used to redesign jobs in a structured manner.

Step one: Diagnose the need for job redesign

When deciding whether job redesign is needed, businesses will need to consider pertinent questions relating to the four key facets of organizational strategy and structure, processes and tasks, technology and people.

If the organization is embarking on a new strategy that entails the development of new structures and teams or creating new core capabilities that require new ways of working, job redesign is needed. This is now a key consideration as companies consider new lines of business and reshape their workforce in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Job redesign is also required when processes need to be streamlined and redesigned to increase productivity and effectiveness through automation or digitalization. These include low-value tasks that are time- or labor-intensive.

New technologies offer digitalization opportunities that enable more resilient processes, improve how work is done or drive better customer and employee experiences. However, they also impact job roles, which require employees to learn new skills to keep up with new technological solutions.

From a people perspective, businesses need to consider and address challenges in finding the right talent to perform newly configured jobs. Upskilling or reskilling to handle a different combination of tasks resulting from job redesign is critical to close any skill gaps and enhance the business value of job roles. Where appropriate, jobs should also be redesigned to better harness the capabilities and potential of existing employees, such as making jobs more age-friendly.

Step two: Design the new jobs

After identifying job roles that need to be redesigned, the new job roles should be designed by exploring how a better combination of process design, technology adoption and enhancement, and upskilling can help to alleviate the issues diagnosed in step one.

For example, a hospital had sought to improve the in-patient experience by redesigning the patient account officer’s job role. After an in-depth diagnosis, it redesigned existing in-patient handling processes, with a focus on streamlining them.

The hospital also incorporated technological solutions, such as automation and communication platforms, into in-patient handling processes and reconfigured tasks that would be managed by patient account officers to drive better workload management and enhance productivity. Employee sentiments of patient account officers improved as they were able to perform more value-added tasks and better manage work-life integration.

In another example, a manufacturing company wanted to increase machine utilization and improve the overall production output. An Internet of Things solution was implemented, with sensors installed in the production machinery across the entire production value chain. This provided detailed data for the production manager to analyze and identify bottlenecks and potential areas where human error could be eliminated. The production manager’s job role was therefore redesigned to incorporate data analytics and continuous improvement, with upskilling opportunities to help the employee manage these new responsibilities.

Step three: Enable implementation of new job roles

Change management will be needed to enable the successful implementation of redesigned job roles. For example, inputs from current job role holders can be solicited during the redesign of their job roles. Training and support should also be provided to help them adapt to the new ways of working, especially in technology familiarization. HR practices, such as learning and development and performance management, will need to be updated to further support these individuals in upskilling efforts to take on their new responsibilities.

Enable national workforce transformation

While it is important for organizations to do their own bottom-up implementation of job redesign, an ecosystem approach will be required to enable broader, national-level job redesign efforts to provide better jobs and opportunities for the country’s workforce.

An ecosystem approach will be required to enable broader, national-level job redesign efforts to provide better jobs and opportunities for the country’s workforce.
Jia Yong Goh
Partner, People Advisory Services – Workforce Advisory, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd.

The public sector will play a key role in driving these ecosystem efforts. First, it can directly provide support to companies in their job redesign efforts through programs such as the Singapore Government’s Support for Job Redesign under Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG-JR). The PSG-JR allows companies to work with pre-approved organizations like EY to redesign work processes, tasks and responsibilities for workforce transformation. Such job redesign support, coupled with broader assistance to companies embarking on their digital and business transformation efforts, will be catalytic in driving a mindset shift on jobs and skills within key industries in the country.

Second, the public sector can lead the way in identifying how global and digital trends will impact manpower, jobs and skills in the future. This will raise awareness on new ways of working and emerging jobs and skills within each sector, as well as identify collaborative opportunities for stakeholders. Some initiatives include The Impact of Wider Integration of Data Analytics and Automation on Manpower in the Singapore Financial Services Sector study by the Institute of Banking & Finance Singapore and Monetary Authority of Singapore, as well as the Study of the Impact of Industry 4.0 on Singapore’s Logistics Workforce by Singapore Economic Development Board and Enterprise Singapore.

Third, the public sector can create a robust ecosystem by bringing together representations from industry groups, such as trade associations, chambers of commerce and trade unions. The government can also bring together representations from institutes of higher learning and adult learning providers to offer the necessary upskilling opportunities needed to enable job redesign efforts.

Having said that, the ecosystem approach will be futile if companies do not seize the unprecedented opportunity from the COVID-19 pandemic to reshape their ways of working and reimagine their workforce needs to drive greater productivity and customer value. Clearly, such efforts should be part of companies’ long-term strategies if they desire to stay agile and competitive in the face of disruptions.

Summary

The COVID-19 crisis has offered organizations the unprecedented opportunity to reshape how they work and redesign jobs. This is not only crucial to enhance efficiency and productivity, but also to maintain long-term competitiveness and agility in the face of disruptions.

A structured three-step approach to redesign jobs based on the organizational strategy and structure, processes and tasks, technology and people is required.

On the national level, an ecosystem approach involving the public sector and representations from industry groups and institutes of higher learning will be needed to build a future-ready workforce.

About this article

By Jia Yong Goh

Partner, People Advisory Services – Workforce Advisory, Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd.

People consulting professional. Experienced in supporting digital and workforce transformation. Professional Singapore Certified Management Consultant with TUV SUD.