In the current workforce market, employers and employees alike are faced with everyday challenges pertaining to the job environment. Some excellent high-performers don’t see their employer utilizing their skills effectively.
On a higher level, it could be that the management has not aligned its strategic objectives with its talent pool, resulting in clear skills gaps, misdirected workforce supply, and a ton of wasted potential.
This is where effective workforce planning comes into play. But what is it anyway? In this piece, I will delve deeper into what strategic workforce planning is, what benefits it has, and how you can start applying all the newly-acquired knowledge right away.
What is workforce planning?
Workforce planning (also referred to as strategic workforce planning) is basically ensuring that the company’s business strategy is well-aligned with its talent management. In other words, the company has the right number of people with the right skills to perform the roles that are needed to help the company accomplish its short-term and long-term business objectives and flourish overall.
The most basic perspective here is to make sure that no position is overstaffed or understaffed.
When too many people are available, it is by definition inefficient. The same job could be done by fewer employees, yet we spread it across multiple entities, reducing the overall efficiency. It can further lead to employee dissatisfaction and decreased morale, as they may feel as though they weren’t needed that much after all. The feeling of being dispensable is not one that we wish our employees to have to endure.
On the flip side, however, having too few people at our disposal means we’re producing or offering less than we could, minimising profit. In some companies, instead of engaging the HR leaders to take care of those staffing needs and hiring the necessary talent, the management re-delegates the responsibilities of the employees who have left among the ones that stayed. That, in turn, can lead to overworking, needless stress, and overall workforce dissatisfaction.
Clearly, it is imperative to avoid either scenario.
When the company can proactively anticipate what kind of people are needed now and, crucially, in the future workforce, they can take the necessary steps now to ensure that no issues arise later.
While here we talk about people and roles, it is key to look at it from a skills gaps perspective as well. We might want to increase the competitive advantage of our workforce by equipping them with the proper skills to perform their job better or to re-skill people to move them across departments. Instead of engaging in time- and money-consuming recruitment processes, it may be better to take care of the people we have on board already.
Last but not least, appropriate workforce planning should be implemented in analysing the skills gaps related to job positions we don’t have yet at the company but we envision we might, looking at the market direction.
Workforce planning benefits
Keeping that perfect balance between roles, people, and skills has a multitude of potential benefits. Let me explore just a few of those.
Source – AliDropShip
ROI (return on investment) when it comes to the existing workforce but also future workforce. It’s tightly bound to the previously mentioned idea of efficiency. With the right skills and number of employees in a given role, we are optimising the costs and profits of their presence in the company.
Skills gaps can be covered with a proper workforce planning process and, even more importantly, talent management. When you can take advantage of the full potential of your employee skills, not only are you getting more out of your hire, but also the employee is happy that they have an opportunity to develop, face new potential challenges, and spread their wings.
Moreover, with proper workforce planning, we are ready for the unexpected. Semantically, in this case, the unexpected would actually be expected. The workforce planning process is a motivator to look ahead and attempt to foresee future needs, labor costs, talent gaps, and the overall workforce plan. When we have predicted what future workforce issues may be, we can start preparing for them now. If we see slow growth in a particular technology, we can start promoting learning that technology now. Consequently, once that technology has boomed, we already have experts at the ready. The end result is that the company is way ahead of its competitors.
The stages of the strategic workforce planning process
Source: Thrive Map
There are multiple stages of the workforce planning process that need to be taken into account when you aim to implement it. Let’s look at them one by one.
Understand the organisation and its environment – each business has its strategic direction and we ought to understand strategic objectives before we make any changes to the way we operate. We need to look into the current and future talent pool; what we want to achieve in the upcoming weeks, months, or even years; or whether any big changes are planned.
Analyse the current and potential workforce – when you look at any given company, it will be evident that the staff makeup differs wildly. In order to properly execute a workforce planning strategy, first we need to identify the talent we have access to. Once you know what skills are at your disposal, you can start managing them. Furthermore, it does not start and end with the current workforce, as one needs to take a look at the potential workforce. Last but not least, in addition to the talent management aspect, we need to look at more individualistic perspectives on employment such as compensation, morale, job security, etc.
Determine future workforce needs – adaptability is a highly-desired quality when it comes to talent strategy and managing employees. Thanks to looking ahead, we can plan for any contingencies and then adapt to the changing circumstances. Those changes could relate to the need to re-skill employees, supply and demand changes on the job market, or restructure departments.
Identify workforce gaps against future staffing needs – there is always a need to identify gaps in skills that we have available in our talent pool. Crucially, those gaps may be evident now and they are easy to address, yet it’s substantially harder to pre-emptively take care of potential future shortages. Such a gap analysis will inform you on who to employ, who to keep, and who to re-skill.
Actions to address shortages, surpluses or skill mismatches – you ought to have an actual plan and strategic goals when it comes to addressing mismanaged workforce. You need to work out a solution for when there are too many or too few employees in a certain position. While an impulsive reaction might be to fire the surplus and start hiring in shortages, a better long-lasting solution would be to re-skill employees. If the stars and skills align, it’s entirely possible that you won’t have to do any hiring or firing just by reshuffling the talent within the organisation or departments.
Monitor and evaluate actions – you cannot have a successful business strategy or workforce planning processes without regular review, monitoring, and evaluation. Much to agile aficionados’ content, you want to establish an iterative process where you can improve on what you’ve done regularly.
How to implement strategic workforce planning into your business strategy?
If you want to get started, there are some key steps to be considered. First, do you utilise a skills-oriented approach or rather does your workforce revolve around roles? The skills-based organizational model fosters workforce agility. As sets of skills are more important than traditional roles, it’s easier to adjust to business needs and quickly form teams to deliver on projects.
The second question is whether you’ve got the infrastructure to support whatever conclusions come from workforce planning. You might establish a strategy but it shall be rendered void unless you can follow through. You need a way to assess what talent you’ve got available, what people’s motivations are, and a proper training strategy. A tool that could tell you that, say, half of your existing workforce in the tech department has the foundation to re-skill to become DevOps experts would be invaluable.
Last but not least, is your company future-focused to look into people’s aspirations, skills, or preferences? If you want to successfully conduct workforce planning and implement a workforce planning strategy, you need to be aware that it is a dynamic process that is subject to regular, iterative feedback, depending on the ever-changing market.
TalentBoost is a tool that is a one-stop shop for all talent-related needs. All the employees can get their skills and competencies mapped so that their manager has the perfect overview of who knows what.
You can also build a personalised career plan for existing employees in order to satisfy the talent needs of the current employees—the business goals of the company, and avoid unrealistic targets that the HR Team may have come up with.
A clear way to manage talent is vital in effective workforce planning.
Strategic workforce planning is crucial to optimise work done, meet the company’s employee-related business goals, identify future objectives, and take full care of the professional development of your talent. Using tools like TalentBoost you make sure that everybody is in the right place, doing the right job, with just the right set of skills, with a proper learning and development path laid out in front of them.
Source: CXC global