An Effective Approach to Workforce Planning – Part 1 of 2

See Part II

A key objective by most HR organizations is a focus on workforce planning.  They know that understanding workforce needs is a critical element in shaping recruitment, training and talent development for the organization.Workforce Plan Objectives
One of the barriers to getting started on a workforce plan is the sheer effort this effort takes.  You may consider an enterprise-wide plan, business group level, geography/country level analysis.  There is also the voluminous amount of HR data making the task daunting.
Here is an outline of an approach I am taking on workforce plan.  I went through many iterations but I believe that I am finally down the right path in making this effort manageable.  I believe these are the four areas where we can deliver tangible results.  They are the areas that are viewed as most important to our business leaders.  As such, if we can focus on these immediate areas we, HR and business leaders, can gain traction.

Workforce Plan Objectives

Identify Growth and Emerging Skills.  Often times recruiters receive headcount requisitions after final deliberations with finance on headcount targets and budget.  A staffing organization can be more effective if the team can focus on skill set needs, as opposed to requisition-based hiring.

  • Emerging Skills – What are they new technology or markets for your company.  Do you have a market knowledge of supply and demand or labor costs.
  • Sustaining Skills – Do you have an understanding and data/statistics of current required skills for your organization.  Do you have demographic data to predict hiring needs (new hires, turn-over, retirement.  Is there a pipeline strategy to backfill.
  • Declining Skills – What are the lower-needed skills in the organization.  Are there redundancy or over-lap in skills set needs.  Are there opportunities for re-training or cross-training to keep talented people within the company.  How do you redeploy talent across the enterprise.

Build a Talent Pool.  Building an internal talent pool is more then a succession plan.  Organizations need to have breadth and depth of available talent within the enterprise to fill critical and leadership roles.

  • Succession Plan, Not.  Often times a succession plan is about identifying 1 or 2 individuals as potential successors to the incumbent.  Reality suggest that that situations are much more fluid, key players move in/out of business units while the successor being groomed may or may not be ready.  Thus a broader base of ready talent is needed.
  • Internal Job Rotation.  A related program is to encourage and allow for internal job transfers or rotations.  The benefit of such a program is at least two folds:
    1. Skills Development:  Internal transfers allows your employee develop new skills and competencies.  Organizations can steer employees into areas of greater need or lack of available of talent is needed to fulfill critical projects.
    2. Identify Key Talent:  As employees rotate through the various business units, a cross section of business managers will have an opportunity to observe the evaluate the employee’s performance, giving managers greater insight into the person’s capabilities.

Talent Acquisition.  A core utilization for workforce plan is to anticipate and forecast hiring needs of the organization.  This allows for talent acquisition team to plan the upcoming year’s hiring requirements.

  • External Hiring:  A key focus is on external recruiting requirements.  The internal staffing team may need to development staffing budgets to meet external hiring targets.
  • College Recruiting:  University hiring cycle are often not aligned to an organization’s budget planning cycle.  Campus recruiting cycle typically happen in the fall but start dates occur after graduation dates, in the summer.  The lead time may be one year from the time of offer to start date.
  • Geography Requirements:  As organizations grow increasingly towards a global market, managers must make headcount allocation between headquarters and international business units.  The complexities of  business demands, skill set availability and labor cost must be taken into consideration.
  • Replacement Hires:  Factoring in turn-over will add to the overall hiring workload for a staffing team.  Anticipating the difficult-to-fill skills will minimize workload imbalance when an employee leaves an organization.
  • Contingency Workforce:  Knowing the total workforce needs and accounting for cyclical or temporary staff needs allows for organization to anticipate best approaches for staff augmentation.  Organizations can anticipate additional budgets for temporary payroll costs.

Workforce Solutions.  A key outcome is understanding organization strengths and mitigate “talent gaps” in the enterprise.  A goal is to plan in advance to leadership and managerial needs of the workforce.  This requires a cross-functional HR team partnering with business leaders to close the talent gap.

  • Performance Management.  Managing and evaluating individual employee performance will be critical for the organization to raise the performance bar.  Only until employees know how and the yardstick by which performance is measured will employee rise to the challenge.
  • Learning and Development.  Having formal and informal training programs in place is necessary to training the core workforce.  Designing learning projects for high-potential will ensure a ready available of talent for the organization.
  • Leadership Strategy.  Anticipating future workforce profile will help organizations understand their overall leadership needs.  This will allow for identifying and developing the target population of future leaders and managers needed.
  • Compensation and Rewards.  Having the right compensation programs and reward structure is important to aligning organizational goals.  A clear strategy on rewarding high performers and high potentials is needed to differentiate performance against the average performers.

It is clear that a holistic workforce plan is necessary for HR (and business leaders) to be prepared in managing the workforce.  Having a systematic and predictable process inevitably yields greater results then unplanned or last-minute engagement.  Often times, workforce plan projects can become a daunting doctoral thesis, demotivating HR with limited time and resource.  I’ve outlined 4 key areas I am current working on with my organization in developing a simple and manageable workforce plan.  I will outline the analysis requirements in my next post.  Look out for Part II in the upcoming month.

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