• Sabrina Bonet, Director |
4 min read

Welcome to the future of work, an age of permanent disruption, groundbreaking trends and constant transformation. Companies willing to make more radical changes and shape a workforce with the right skills, attitudes and flexibility will be better positioned to lead their companies into the future.



Of Execs are focused on future workforce needs and how to implement them (KPMG The Future of HR 2020)



Of the workforce will be contingent by 2022 (Intuit Contingent Workforce Forecast)



Of the workforce are millennials and Gen Z (Generational Differences and the Impact on the Workplace & Society)



Of organizations are struggling to recruit because of skills shortages (CIPS)



Agree that the biggest challenge for HR is preparing the workforce for AI and tech impacts (KPMG The Future of HR 2020)

In the past, organizations planned their workforces the traditional way, considering only organizational models that had been used in the past. We are now entering into a new era, where the traditional way of working is being disrupted by several factors (e.g. AI or COVID-19), forcing organizations to think outside the box, and reinvent workforce planning for the future.

In every single sector, new and evolving technologies are dramatically transforming the future of work, and the health crisis we are facing today has accelerated the adoption of new architecture that is digital to its very core, enhancing companies’ connected capabilities and agility.

Does this mean that new emerging digital solutions will eliminate our jobs? Not exactly.

Rather than replacing jobs entirely, deploying digital technologies will instead impact the way organizations perform tasks and apply skills. Therefore, the impact of digitalization on a task level will drive companies to reorganize their work to achieve productivity gains. This is an unprecedent opportunity to make work more human and engaging as machines take on repetitive, lower-value tasks.

Understanding the concept of workforce shaping

In this context, business leaders should be asking: “What should our workforce look like by the middle of the next decade?” and “Which key skills and capabilities are needed to thrive in the future, and how do we begin developing them?”

KPMG relies on workforce shaping, a modern discipline that looks at what the workforce needs to successfully deliver on defined strategic scenarios for an organization five to ten years ahead.1,2. Workforce shaping enables organizations to move from a traditional model based on matching people to jobs to one that includes machine learning and evidence-based insights to enable matching skills to tasks3Specifically, workforce shaping:

  • Enables leaders to identify needed changes in the shape, size, composition and organization of the workforce to deliver the strategic agenda of the future enterprise
  • Takes into account disruption to the existing workforce as a result of the emergence of disruptive technologies, the impact of generational differences, demographics, and contingent vs. fulltime employment models
  • Provides a structured approach to moving forward by determining what the workforce could look like in five to ten years
  • Incorporates continuous analytics that support leaders in developing forecasts, and paves the way for a cadence of clear action steps aligned with ongoing review and course correction as a dynamic process3


Upskilling to thrive in a changing world

As a result of COVID-19 and the way it has completely transformed traditional ways of working, we anticipate a significant rise in the upskilling or reskilling of the workforce. The impact of COVID-19, coupled with emerging technologies, will require workers to obtain new skills to successfully carry out jobs. In the healthcare sector, for instance, patients’ and caregivers’ safety, as well as limiting exposure to pathogens, will be a priority. This will likely result in virtual, AI-supported treatment and consultation (versus in-person visits). Care pathways may be completely redesigned via cognitive AI augmentation. This change in ways of working for healthcare professionals will require reskilling in areas such as digital literacy and technology skills4.

Furthermore, the development of new leadership capabilities such as providing meaning and purpose, reducing ambiguity and architecting new systems and environments will be critical as organizations transition to redefined workforces while remaining agile in the face of ongoing digital disruption.

Where to start? A roadmap for shaping the workforce of the future

As a starting point, companies can ensure that they have the right capabilities in the right place at the right time by focusing on these four steps:

  1. Truly understand what the data is telling you: Understand the possible business futures of the bank and its associated business levers; the extent to which they will be pursued; and the time frame for this to happen.
  2. Build a strategy for your workforce of the future (WFOTF): Understand future workforce needs and work backwards from a future vision to include skills/capabilities, technology/AI, leadership, work structure, labor supply, people practices and organizational principles.
  3. Define a plan to achieve your strategy: Understand the attrition, retention recruitment and training plans for capabilities identified as a common skill for the future. This process should produce a set of initiatives that support the workforce strategy.
  4. Build a compelling story to help the workforce engage with change: Build a compelling story with the data to inspire, excite and engage the future workforce audience.


There is clearly much uncertainty about what the future of work will look like in 10 years, but what we do know is that if companies start shaping their workforce today, they will be more prepared and in a much better position to anticipate and address future challenges.

  1. Source: KPMG. Rise of the Humans 3: Shaping the workforce of the future, 2018
  2. Source: KPMG and Big Innovation Centre. Learning to learn: The future-proof skill, 2018
  3. Source: KPMG. Workforce shaping, 2020
  4. Source: KPMG. Reinventing work: A sequel to the Rise of the Humans series, 2020