Increase your visibility to the location options and the composition of future workforces


Rupert Bader

Senior Director, Workforce Planning

This post summarizes Anaplan’s HR approach in using our own product to implement flexible workforce location strategies.

As an organization grows and evolves its strategies, providing employees with the option to choose where they work has a significant impact on attracting and retaining the best talent. Relocation costs can be substantial, and for many workers, the disruption to family and personal life is not worth significant and frequent changes. Companies like Spotify, Atlassian, and Twilio have already loosened their policies to make many roles available for flexible and virtual (remote) work. Removing the traditional boundaries defined by the physical locations allows these companies to access the full breadth of talent available in their countries of operation.

Increased visibility to the location options and the composition of future workforces requires recruiting and hiring today with a clear understanding of what is necessary to produce future experts and leaders. This approach reduces the cost of external hiring at the mid- and senior level, while also improving the career prospects for emerging talent within the company. Another added benefit is accelerating the representation of diverse talent at the mid- and senior levels of the company – improving equity of compensation and attracting more diverse workers. That’s a strategic benefit because 78% of U.S. workers say it is important that their companies foster an inclusive and equitable environment (April 2021 CNBC/Surveymonkey workforce happiness index).

At Anaplan, we use our own product to make sure that our future workforce is developed with emerging talent at the forefront and include a flexible location strategy that supports employee choice and benefits. A lot was learned during 2020, when work-from-home was the company-wide policy. In this post, I’ll share the process you can use to bring this vision to reality in your workplace.

Where to start

Begin by delivering a simple snapshot of your workforce including location (organized into state/country/regional hierarchies), organization (using financial or HR reporting hierarchies), and job level (using compensation guidelines or job libraries). You can integrate your HRIS data with Anaplan through two simple, automated daily feeds, in just two weeks: It usually takes less than a week to adapt an existing feed or create a new one, and another week at the most to create the data, views, and metrics that make the most sense to your HR teams.

By building calculations for annual hiring, termination, and promotion rates (with differences where statistically significant) into your Anaplan model, your model will project the baseline workforce forward for five years.

Next, create scenarios that narrate different growth trajectories (e.g., higher revenue growth, increased product development, or both simultaneously) by the organization, location, and level. Some examples are:

  • Scenario #1: Accelerated growth for emerging talent requires higher investment in training.
  • Scenario #2: Ramping up emerging talent slowly means externally hiring more mid-level managers.
  • Scenario #3: Incorporate a flexible working policy based on research like this from Gallup, where 54% of software engineers prefer to work virtually, providing increased access to diverse talent across the country.
  • Scenario #4: Demonstrate the tradeoffs of shifting hiring to lower-cost locations vs. high-cost locations over time.
  • Scenario #5: Show the implications of improved hiring and promotion rates at all levels for the leadership representation of women and other under-represented groups over time.

Using Anaplan’s “what-if” modeling to experiment with these ideas, you will find several scenarios that describe possible futures for your workforce under various conditions of growth, distribution, and investment in emerging talent. Our internal Anaplan modeler team developed such a baseline model over a two-month sprint in close collaboration with the workforce planning team.

Workforce planning in the Anaplan platform.

Decide on the most favorable path

Once you have developed your baseline model, add more context based on your organization’s unique challenges. This helps you land on the preferred long-range plan for the optimal ability to attract and retain talent, while staying within cost and contractual constraints. Do this in partnership with finance and real estate teams that already have their own perspectives on future expense and real estate constraints for the organization. Their input belongs in your Anaplan model as well.

  • You can add a variable to show the mix of employees in each country that will be office-based or virtual/remote. This allows you to estimate a budget that allow remote employees to travel one or two times per year to work with their teams in person as well as examine the capacity requirements for specific offices, estimate relocation budgets, and measure the environmental impacts of reduced commuting requirements.
  • You can include the external talent market data (e.g., U.S. Census workforce data on race/ethnicity) that shows the profile of talent across the countries where you operate (or wish to operate) and set expectations for the future set of candidates and hires that you should be able to attract given an increased number of roles that are open to virtual/remote work.
  • You can work with finance and emerging-talent recruiting teams, as well as each of the business leaders, to set goals for building an emerging talent pool from universities, apprentice programs, internships, bootcamps, military exits, and second-career candidates that will enter the workforce in future fiscal years and can reduce demand for external hiring at the mid- and senior levels.

In the first-year, the results of such a long-range workforce plan can then be connected to short-term planning and budgeting cycles to inform overall employee expense cost expectations. It can even be expanded to include real estate, IT, and recruiting capacity expenses.

As the organization evolves, update the underlying rosters and assumptions (through automatic, statistical, or manual input) in the model so that it can be used by leadership teams for more detailed organizational planning and “what-if” scenarios.

This simple approach – powered by Anaplan’s multidimensional modelling and scenario-building capabilities – empowers leaders and their teams to see the future through one common framework. Companies can increase diversity, decrease wasted time, and improve productivity by investing in an emerging talent program that allows use of mid-level workers for more specialized work, leading to more employee satisfaction.

Learn more about how Anaplan provides workforce agility in our agile workforce planning white paper.