Align your workforce strategy with your company’s goals


Gaz Willott

Sr. Customer Success Business Partner

Your org has declared its marching orders, so how will you deliver the workforce plan to meet them?

Strategic workforce planning isn't just the piece of work you do when you want some “blue-sky” thinking time. It's a critical process to help you align your workforce of today with your goals of tomorrow.

If you've gone to the trouble of cataloguing the individual skills the people in your organization bring to your business, you're likely to want to know what to do next. How do you take this information into a workforce plan that allows you to realize your company’s strategic, long-term goals?

Deconstruct the goals

Most businesses want to increase profit, drive shareholder value, and provide a vehicle for future growth. It's all about increasing revenue and reducing costs — most roles in the organization and the people in those roles will need to be aligned with these objectives.

What skills do your people have that align with these drivers (revenue or costs)? How much of your current performance relates to your people's competence within these skills? Which critical skills drive the business forward, and what impact has your learning and development program delivered for you? It's important to quantify the impact your current skill development program is having so it's easier to anticipate how your efforts can bring you closer to that strategic goal.

Break down the roles

Most organizations will now start to take a top-down look at the roles in the company, breaking them down into those that drive revenue and those that help manage costs. Typically, you can then see a further breakdown of roles into:

  • Market-facing: The people who work directly with your customers — this could be the general public or other organizations.
  • Leadership: All those people who are responsible for nurturing and driving performance.
  • Technical: People who help provide the capability and tools to operate the business.
  • Support: Those who help get things done and provide efficient support to those who may need to focus on the specialism of their roles.

Breaking the workforce down like this sounds simple, but it's easy to get wrong. Over time, organizations complicate their view of jobs and roles. I saw one business with more leadership titles available than leaders! Seriously, team lead, team leader, team coach, team manager, specific function team leader, etc. — they're all leadership roles, driving and directing. The title variation may provide clarity for those individuals and the business areas they work in, but it is terrible for strategic workforce planning.

The purpose of simplifying the role structure is so you can more clearly align them to the strategic business goals. Say you're targeting 10% revenue growth while maintaining costs. To achieve this, you may need more market-facing people. However, this will increase your staff-expense base. You may then need to consider changing or growing your organization’s cost management side to allow you to stand up that whizzy new IT system or process to drive costs back down. Will this mean a temporary increase in technical and support resources? Probably.

Invest in your workforce

If you've linked historical performance and the overall competency level in the skills that drive your business forward, a better workforce planning strategy is to invest even more into the development of your people. Provide a mechanism for people to “go deeper” in those skills that drive revenue. This is a no-brainer. If you've made an effort to bring people into your business, it is far more cost-effective and engaging to keep their skills up to date and relevant than to recruit new people into the organization or bring in specialists to roll out new technologies.

Strategic workforce planning is so multi-faceted, with endless options and opportunities, that knowing where to start can seem daunting. As you begin to peel back the layers of what is important to your business, it is crucial to have the capability to test different scenarios and assess the outcome of one approach over another. 

You will be on the right track if you can bring together the relevant data, right expertise, and the ability to test, learn and adjust the plan as you explore your options and work toward those goals.

Download this case study from Constellation Research to discover how Queensland Rail’s workforce planning strategy is closing their talent gaps.