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Part 1: 8 keys to a successful strategic workforce planning implementation

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A comprehensive approach for workforce planning, featuring insights from the Human Capital Institute

We read everywhere that business is global—it’s not becoming global, it is global. People are working remotely and collaborating globally more than ever before. Companies are opening offices in more places all over the world and hiring in local communities more than ever before, all in a period of heightened competition to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, according to recently released research on workforce planning by Workday and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) surveying nearly 400 professionals, employees are growing increasingly disengaged and more are demanding flexible work engagements.

These reasons, along with the need to mitigate risk and adapt to changing business models, aren’t unnoticed by HR leaders—the majority of the companies surveyed acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach to strategic workforce planning. According to Jenna Filipkowski, the director of research at HCI and author of the survey report, effective implementation of a strategic workforce plan can enable leaders to “address the workforce skill and capability gaps and changing workforce demographics, and to facilitate growth plans for new markets.”

Yet only 44 percent of companies surveyed report that they are effective at tying workforce strategy to business strategy. Additionally, 45 percent say that they are unprepared for the talent needs of the future.

But as one survey respondent said, we all have to start somewhere—and in this first of two blogs, I’ll detail the first four of eight keys HCI recommends in order to implement a successful strategic workforce plan.

Key 1: Articulate workforce planning processes that support and sync talent and business outcomes

According to the report, the strategic workforce planning process should flow throughout the organization and repeated as necessary for greatest success. But when companies were asked how often they revised their plans, more than half admitted that they do it only once a year. Not only that, but only 43 percent of respondents say that their process is scalable across the organization.

Clearly, these numbers can be improved—and doing so requires working with a living plan that can be adjusted in real time, using real-time data, so that HR leaders can identify skill deficiencies and improve operational efficiency to ensure that business results will align with company goals.

Key 2: Segment roles to determine how each position contributes value and which roles are a priority or on the periphery

Do you have too many account executives (AEs) and not enough engineers? Or too many people in the finance department and not enough in marketing? To determine this, HR leaders need to identify the key skills needed in the company, particularly those that are most directly correlated to revenue, cost, controls, or cost and operational efficiencies.

For example, in a robust economy, Company A wants to increase revenue and raises sales goals for its AEs. HR leaders and hiring managers must then quickly determine how much support the AEs will need from a demand generation perspective and hire for those roles accordingly. On the other hand, if the economy contracts and the company sees a drop in demand, it’s likely to slow or freeze hiring for non-essential roles.

Key 3: Conduct a scan of the workplace environment to identify and monitor trends that affect the workforce and the organization

With employee disengagement rising, implementing employee engagement programs to address retention risk is becoming increasingly important for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.

If your company doesn’t do so already, a good place to start would be to survey your employee base. Additionally (and this may be somewhat controversial), you should continue conducting performance reviews—but ensure that they’re fair. One way to ensure fairness is to “rate the rater” or manager, which then allows you to normalize the routinely low and and high scores.

Leaders can then see whether an employee is stagnating in a role, based on data like time since the last promotion or raise, and if there’s a better fit in another department or another role. This data can also be used for proper filtering to determine which employees are ready for a promotion.

Key 4: Inventory and evaluate the current workforce and management

This sounds similar to the last point as it also ties into retention planning, but there is a slight difference: By looking at data across the workforce, leaders can identify if there is a particular department in which attrition is happening more than others. Once identified, they can provide a solution, such as improved leadership training, to address the situation.

In the next blog of this two-part series, I’ll talk about the other four keys for a successful strategic workforce planning implementation.

In the meantime, for more information on workforce planning strategies and future you can download the special report by Raconteur, The Future of Work.

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