Workforce Planning

Written by: Rainee Busby
09 Sep 2015

What do you think of when you hear someone talking about workforce planning? For many they start to think of the ways to allocate their resources to get the most out of their business. But, there is much more to it than that. I’m talking about future workforce planning; not resource management. We’re not simply moving a few people there and adding a few here, but rather projecting where the business will be in the next 2 to 3 years and then assessing the type of skills our people will need in order to deliver.

This is not an easy task for many companies who are beginning to realize that the talent shortage is going to leave them between a rock and a hard place. Not good to say the least. Workforce requires us to think into the future of ‘what is happening’ or ‘what might happen’ and then work backwards. At the same time we need to be keeping an eye on what’s happening inside and outside of the business today.

In theory, it may not sound too difficult, but this is a critical piece of business that many are struggling with. It’s tough to find people who are skilled in the tactical and strategic implementation of workforce planning. One of the challenges we face is, too often, this problem has been been placed in HR’s lap when in reality this is a business problem. It should be supported by HR but driven by the business. Keep in mind this plan ensures our people are ready when we need them to support our future growth. This future growth is not projected by HR, but rather by the business.

The biggest issue, though, is that many companies struggle with ensuring they have the right skills to support today’s business let alone start thinking about their future. We all want our business to grow and have the competitive edge, but we also need to sustain for the long term. This requires a plan, not only for your business, but also for your people. That is when you need to begin discussions about workforce planning.

Key elements of Workforce Planning

Create a team of Key Players

Your key player should be a mix of people from across the organization. Include people like managers, key executives, members from departments like finance, IT, HR and operations. Having a broad spectrum of people will give you great insight into the future need of your organization as whole.

Analyze your data

You need to create an awareness of not only your internal environments, but also your external environments that you may not be able to control. Be careful, because there is so much data you can end up in an analysis paralysis. Tip: Don’t focus to heavily on the people analytics, you are analyzing where your growth potential lies, not your HR statistics.

Environmental scanning

What could happen internal and external to hinder or prevent this growth? Some internal examples may include losing key talent or implementing new systems. You are also going to want to monitor market changes (like oil and gas capital spending) and economic challenges. It is important that you know your industry. Are there projected talent shortages or new competition that could take away some of your key people. Tip: Account for the unknown, like natural disasters. Project how this could affect your projections.

Structure your approach

Leverage tools and methodologies to ensure it’s a structured approach. This is the best way to ensure integration to all key practices across the business landscape, stay tightly in sync for meetings, etc.

Clearly define your Projections

Futuring is a practice to help us predict the future (only about 2 to 3 years) so we can build plans around our best case scenario. By utilizing scenario planning, you look into all of your potential options and by listing pros and cons can paint a realistic picture and make an educated decision. Tip: It is best to project what it would look like if you do nothing.

Predict your people needs

Ask what will we need from a people perspective to support this new projected growth. What talent gaps do you have (talent gaps link). How do you close those gaps?

Create Strategic Positions

What positions will be key to support this growth? What are the skills and expertise that will ensure success in these positions? Do you already have the best people in place, or will you need to recruit them? All of these questions can be easily answered with your people strategy plan. If you don’t already have one take a look at our people strategy plan show. It will give you step by step instructions on how to create a plan for you and your organization.

Steps to include in your workforce planning

One key piece you should always align with the business is your strategy plan. Our goal is to support the successful execution of strategy to support the planned growth or changes. We may use futuring (which we just discussed) to identify our projected future plan based on key elements that we captured. We need to spend our time learning to help the leadership team make the best decisions, which requires data and analytics.

At this point in the game, our jobs should be segmented to support this future strategy. If you remember we have four segments our jobs fall into: strategic, core, support, and surplus. Define your pivotal roles within all of these and expand your processes out from there.

We will also need to have our people segmented. This includes our high performers, and high potentials (they will be especially important when it comes time for future growth).

Each of the two previous steps will help you to clearly identify our gaps. So, our focus will then need to turn to: how can we close these gaps? By utilizing your hiring processes, development, internal movement, outsourcing and leveraging 3rd parties you should be able to set your people up in a way that they are in line to develop with your company’s projected growth.

Throughout this entire process ensure you have your checks and balances in place. What is happening in your market that could affect the way you are going about growing. Make sure that you are able to be flexible.

The Details of Workforce planning

How do we paint a picture of our future workforce using current Data?

There are going to be an endless number of sources of data you COULD utilize for your plan. My best advice is to utilize your internal systems. As we mentioned before we don’t want to only focus on HR, but this is the time when we can start to incorporate your other departments like HR, Finance, Budgeting, and Capital Spending Trends. But, don’t disregard your external factors that could be making an impact on your business as well. Look at your labor markets, labor trends, market changes, and new industries that may be making an appearance in your area. All of these will contribute to your ability to grow, but also may potentially steal some of your top talent away.

Analytics will help you make sense of all of the data that we just talked about. It will help us make sense of what is the data telling us? Your data contains the information if you have a surplus of engineers and not enough administrators.

Because you will undoubtedly be give a lot of data it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have people who are experts in this area help you to make sense of it all (recomendtation)

Who should a workforce planning team include and what are their key tasks?

The configuration of the team is a critical piece. We need to ensure all the critical people are involved; leaving someone out can be detrimental to your success. The best way to do this, is to design a traditional team. A ‘typical’ team is comprised of no more than 12 people.

First will be your project manager, which you will need in a big way to manage tasks, create accountability, tracking deliverables, and most importantly communication.

You will also need a Data analysts to help you crunch the numbers and make sense of what you are doing. A stakeholder will be the ones making the decisions, but will also play an important support role for you when you are driving change and ruffling feathers along the way.

IT to help identify data sources and any technical aspects that can be leverage or planned for in the future because they have a strategy all their own.

Business people would include your low and mid-level management, subject matter experts, and project managers for your future projects.

Here is the point where HR will become your biggest resource. Through this process HR will facilitate the discusssions, provide you with HR data and execute the people planning aspect of this workforce plan; which as you remember is the foundation of this whole change. They will help you with targeted development as well as support and succession management.

Your last and critical piece is your change management. As we are moving and trying to change things about your business, you will upset some people. Your change management helps to communicate your ideas and goals through the entire organization.

Overall you want to identify your talent gaps and determine how best to close those high priority gaps. (remember: Not all are created equal and there is going to be a lot of solutions to solve the issues.)

Workforce planning is a critical element as companies try to grow with the talent shortages that are predicted for our future. Skilled labor will be tight. Don’t just assume there will be the skills you need to support this growth. The future can be an exciting place but it takes planning starting with the end in mind to be successful. It’s an evolution – not a revolution.

Don’t miss our next show! We’ll be talking about gender and generational challenges. For the first time ever we’ve had 5 generations in the workforce. This is a huge challenge for every company. We’ll be talking about generational expectations but more importantly what are the individual expectations that must be fulfilled in order to drive performance and satisfaction. You won’t want to miss this program. It’ll be chocked full of great ideas and approaches to calm the waters when generations don’t see eye to eye.