The 4Bs for the workplace of the future

Stella Ngugi
Aug 4, 2020 · 7 min read

They say the only constant thing is change. And sometimes in a year like this, change comes like a big wave carrying along with it all boats. Apart from natural phenomenon and situations beyond the company’s control, companies have to keep evolving because of several key reasons;

  • Emerging business models
  • Technological advancements
  • Changing demographics & behaviours
  • To be innovative & stay competitive

At the root of all this is HR because as Steve Wynne said, “Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” The following piece seeks to address the changing face of the workplace. These changes affect both how HR in itself is organised & delivers value as well as Workforce Planning. As KPMG noted in the Future of HR 2020 report, HR has to rethink its goals, capabilities & how it can shape the organisation of the future.

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of Pathfinding HR organizations agree that HR needs actively to challenge the future workforce composition (who to buy, build, borrow, bot) in order to meet the future needs of their organizations.

Workforce planning involves HR thinking about the shape, size, composition, and skills of the organisation’s workforce in 5–8 years time. A second report reveals how the organisation that will win are those who can strategically & tactically plan their workforce.

this new currency of skills is going to have an increasingly significant impact on workforce planning (skills for the future, mix: build, buy, borrow or bot), learning (reskilling, learning and unlearning), talent acquisition (location strategy, brand, talent pooling) and M&A strategy.

The future of work is already here as we’ve started to see and only the companies that prepare & innovate can not only survive but thrive if they plan talent around the four Bs;

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished” — Benjamin Franklin


Not only is learning & development one of the most attractive things candidates look for when job searching, but it’s also one of the fastest-growing sectors in HR because of the very many benefits it brings to companies. Most of the times it is cheaper to build capabilities from within than hire new people. The latest Linkedin Learning report also reveals that leaders and HR Managers are investing more in L&D because of its long term strategic benefits which is one of HR’s top priorities. If HR can align learning to the business goals & future strategies, it will prove more relevant to the org & its employees in the near & short term. The L&D market has also considerably grown over the last couple of years & with new technologies, HR can now deliver & measure L&D better. Whether you also build this capacity internally by building your own Learning platforms & capacity or you choose to plug employees into the various free & paid tools and resources available online & offline, building & growing your internal workforce is always a sure bet. Sir Richard Branson famously said, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” And just like any other business function, keep an eye out for trends and how L&D is evolving over time.


There has never been a larger availability of workers like today. And this is estimated to grow worldwide with Africa taking the lead. The number of available employees worldwide will rise an estimated 29% to 6.5 billion from 5 billion by the end of the century. Africa’s share will jump to more than a third around 2100 from almost 15% currently, according to the Bloomberg analysis. The continent’s working-age population will grow by 2 billion to 2.75 billion in the next 80 years, while Asia’s will decline by 415 million, or 13%, the projections show. Africa will also not only have the largest workforce but also the youngest as well making it a great source of hires for many. Africa has two of the critical components needed in a successful talent marketplace as shown here in this future of work Ted Talk. i.e Availability & Abundance. However, talent acquisition is super competitive despite the abundant supply because of a lack of quality of skills especially for certain roles like emerging technologies such as AI or the mismatch between education & what employers are looking for and the changing demands of a growing millennial workforce that will by 2025 form the largest group. This challenge is why employer branding has become key for hiring managers worldwide as the competition for the best intensifies. So if recruiting is the most viable option for you now, check out our blog resources here on how to supercharge your hiring.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash


If we can’t/shouldn’t buy or build it, maybe we can borrow it. Because of the large supply of workers & better technology giving us access, companies can now outsource entire tasks or functions to ‘outsiders’. Outsourcing isn’t a new thing in HR as it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce costs while achieving business goals.

Definition: The practice of having certain job functions done outside a company instead of having an in-house department or employee handle them; functions can be outsourced to either a company or an individual

However, certain trends have made this even popular in recent years. Millennials, for instance, have shown how loyalty-lite they are and often work for several employers during their lifetime. Some also prefer the flexibility that comes with freelancing as well as remote working(work from home). The freelance market or otherwise known as the gig economy has slowly risen to become a go-to choice for many job seekers in the market because the majority of jobs being done or hired currently are online and thus enables them access to hundreds of thousands of jobs across the world.

The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary, contract or freelance jobs, often involving connecting with clients or customers through an online platform.

While this offers employers worldwide endless opportunities to get unlimited access to quality & affordable talent from all over the world, there are growing concerns about this group of employees from labour movements because unlike full-time staff, this group aren’t given access to certain employee benefits FT staff have like health insurance which is critical to staff’s overall wellbeing. It’s also more challenging to hire, assess or manage a remote or flexible team as I’m sure many managers have noted with the COVID situation. And as leaders like Steve Jobs of Apple noted, companies who take time to hire & grow their best talent reap the benefits. There are also several challenges that Africa as a continent has to solve in order to fully exploit remote work & flexible talent as we’ve shown here. However, the demand for a flexible workforce is there & this is also opening up new talent as service businesses like Andela recently changed their business model to a more sustainable one by going fully remote and foregoing their physical offices entirely. It’s going to be interesting watching this space as it continues to grow.


The man versus machine debate has been going on since the 90s. In Kenya in the 90s secretaries even demonstrated when the President wanted to introduce typewriters and computers. The conversation about whether robots will take over your job has been intensified in this decade as technology continues to advance. The case for automation in the workplace holds ground for several reasons. Human beings are limited in various capacities including physical, strength, or cognitive. A great example of that is how robots are being currently deployed in hospitals & airports during this COVID 19 pandemic to take over certain tasks that would increase the risk of virus transmission to humans. Automated check-ins at airports in Rwanda & robot nurses in Dubai are ushering people to what the world will look like in a few years. Manufacturing has already spearheaded robot tech in instances like Mercedes & recently Tesla who opened up a new car factory which will be largely run by a machine. There may be lots to consider still if your company is evaluating what to & not automate and this application is on a case by case basis. There’s also labour & legal implications to consider eg if a self-driven car hits a person, who is legally liable? The tech itself is also still in its early phases of the Gantner chart of adoption and we don’t expect this to be mainstream just yet. As shown here, this then mean companies & workers have ample time to reskill themselves & be future-ready. There’s room for man & machine to coexist as we’ve already seen eg in banking, customer service or shopping. However, in Africa, the adoption of AI is coming along slowly and hopefully, this decade will be one to push leaders to be more open to tech in the workplace and think strategically about how to prepare workers for the skills of the future that will be more critical to the future organisation.

This describes the ability of a software programme to carry out steps in a process without human intervention, yet within parameters and towards an end goal specified by the programmer.

Having tasks that can be automated performed by AI, Terek says, will only clear up employees’ schedules to focus on more interesting tasks.

In conclusion, workforce planning is a crucial element of talent management & business strategy. Now more than ever, companies have an array of options to build, buy, borrow or bot and create a composition that works for them. If it’s easier, cheaper, faster & helps you win, it’s worth exploring. It all depends on your skills inventory, financial ability, willingness to innovate, talent strategy and corporate leadership. The ones who will survive & thrive(as we’ve seen with COVID) are those who are agile, aware & ambitious. Each of these Bs creates a new opportunity for HR professionals to build on workforce planning skills & shape the organisation of the future proactively.

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Stella Ngugi

Written by

HR Generalist| Founder @JobonicsHR | Where HR, Tech& Entrepreneurship meet| Eat. Pray. Code. Blog. Hire | 🇰🇪 IVisit for more info.


Jobonics is a recruiting platform for startups & growing companies to attract, find & hire quality fulltime & part-time talent easily. Jobonics also allows jobseekers to search & apply for jobs, discover great companies & submit employer reviews.