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When it comes to delivering real business insights, providing a holistic view of the workforce, increasing productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and aligning talent and business strategies, nothing does it better than workforce planning. Today, any HR department worth its salt uses it religiously.

Workforce planning ensures that everyone, from management to staff, is on the same page and working towards the common goal. It also helps managers and team leaders to plan for all eventualities by keeping them abreast with emerging challenges in the market, workforce and business, ensuring they can respond quickly and strategically to change.

To help with all this are a myriad of workforce planning tools. We will look at the Top Five tools that make workforce planning and development possible.

What is a workforce planning tool?

In a nutshell, a workforce planning tool is a tool that helps with workforce planning. It has the capability of using data to analyze the current capabilities as well as the future needs of the workforce population. It can identify the gaps in an organization’s current and future workforce needs and performance shortages, help build an agile workforce by closing workforce gaps, and help make smarter business decisions so that business goals are achieved.

Here are the Top 5 workforce planning tools available today:

#1 Strategic workforce planning map

One of the most common complaints about HR policies is that they don’t follow organizational strategy. Strategic workforce planning is the practice of mapping or aligning an organization’s people strategy with its business strategy so that the two work in sync.

A strategic workforce planning map makes use of a top-down approach. When using this map, HR must first understand the ultimate goal of the organization before identifying supporting objectives required to achieve it. The result – various functions interact and support each other seamlessly. Workforce planning activities can be aligned with the organizational strategy.

A strategic workforce planning map also ensures improved communication within the organization.

Rather than beginning with strategic workforce planning (SWP), an organizational strategy is first set up based on various factors, such as the market (demand and supply trends) and the competition. This organizational strategy is the foundation of strategic workforce planning. It is executed in the various functional HR areas such as performance management, recruitment, rewards & promotions, and so on.

Strategy mapping software resolves the age-old tensions between HR and leadership. It deliberately links everything that HR does to the organization’s goals. A strategy map aims to build a graphical strategy representation that can be used to communicate and align every one of your employees as a crucial contributor to the organization strategy. It can guarantee clarity, connectedness, and communication between what the organization needs and HR.

TalenX.io’s workforce planning solution offers an effective succession and career plan. The solution takes both soft skills and behavioral competencies into consideration. It uses data-driven results to ensure you identify emerging leaders and make the best predictive hiring decisions. Best of all – TalenX puts your business right at the very center and helps you strategize your workforce to meet your organizational goals.

#2 9-Box Grid

The 9-box grid or 9-box model is a succession planning visual tool used by HR practitioners to enable discussions with managers about an employee’s performance and potential.

Also known as the performance and potential matrix, the 9-Box grid is a highly effective visual tool used to help assess talent in organizations. In an organization and within a department, each employee is mapped within one of nine boxes along an X and Y-axis. The box assesses employees on two dimensions – past performance and future potential.

To use this grid, the team leader rates each member of their team and places them in a 9-Box grid. The grid can be used to plan each team member’s progression easily. The box can also be used to prepare the organization’s future leadership positions.

The X-axis, which consists of three boxes along the horizontal line, assesses leadership performance. The Y-axis, which consists of three boxes along the vertical line, assesses potential performance. A combination of the X and Y-axis results in a box within the grid where the employee is placed.

The 9-Box grid is a top-rated performance management tool because it is simple but extremely effective. It’s a diagnostic tool for development that calibrates criteria and expectations. It can be used to plan employee development, identify potential leaders, and top performers, and plan organizational improvement.

Quite similar to the 9-Box grid is TalenX.io’s people and HR analytics software that calibrates criteria and expectations and helps organizations make predictive and scalable talent decisions.

#3 HR Dashboarding

An HR dashboard is a useful tool that shows current workforce capabilities. 

Today, HR dashboards play a critical role in data-driven HR departments. Apart from providing stakeholders with an overview of crucial information, the HR dashboard also provides HR personnel with quick insights to make essential talent management decisions.

The good news is that the latest HR software systems are made up of dashboards that are easy to discern. Some HR dashboards include:

  • Dayforce
  • Gusto
  • Paycor Perform
  • UltiPro
  • BambooHR
  • WebHR

An HR dashboard is loaded with vital information from different source systems. Some of these source systems include an applicant tracking system, human resources information system, and a payroll system. Based on the data, metrics are calculated and displayed.

Some critical metrics that maximize analysis and interpretation are turnover, risk of attrition, matching an employee’s expertise with the business’s needs, diversity, and feedback.

The newer dashboards don’t offer mere drill-downs; they also help you predict the future by using machine learning (ML) algorithms. These ML algorithms provide insights into individual employee behavior (for example, those at risk of quitting) that could be of great strategic value.

#4 Compensation and job analysis benefits

Conducting a company-wide compensation analysis might seem like a lot of work, but its benefits are invaluable. It offers your employees competitive wages, but it also guarantees you attract and retain the right employees.

Compensation is not merely about wages. It includes health benefits, paid time off, and even stock shares – all the factors that go into attracting and retaining your employees. A compensation analysis can give you a better understanding of the appropriate compensation packages for your employees.

Compensation and benefits data and analysis are highly structured and accurate. They are also directly linked to the financial outcome and, therefore, to bottom-line performance.

In its most basic form, compensation and benefits analysis is made up of two elements:

  • Create an internal pay benchmark. Group people in ‘overpaid’ and ‘underpaid’ categories.
  • Use performance data to categorize employees as ‘overperforming’ and ‘underperforming.’

You can ensure your overperforming employees are compensated adequately, and your underperforming employees are paid accordingly. Any difference in the two could either end up with you losing your top performers because you are not paying them enough, or you retaining only poor performers because you are overpaying them (often referred to as the golden cage).

To ensure you get a fair analysis and pay your employees honest and competitive wages, you can use data from labor market statistics and job market information. These will ensure you follow the right payment benchmarks and control external and projected demands for specific jobs.

#5 Scenario planning

Scenario planning is a creative planning method used during the strategic planning process. The objective is to create a wide variety of plausible futures and then analyze how the company will fare under each one of those futures.

With scenario planning, the organization can anticipate different potential futures. Some scenarios include new legislation, technological innovation, a change in the attitude of the public, a pandemic, or even natural disasters. You will envision the impact each of these futures and how it will affect the organization and day-to-day business, and then develop a strategy to deal with them.

When used in workforce planning, scenario-based planning can help develop information to plan for unforeseen and foreseeable events. It helps HR make the right decisions regarding how best to allocate resources, train staff, and so on.

Here are some ways scenario planning works as an excellent tool for workforce planning:

  • Envision plausible and possible future conditions
  • Create a shift in thinking about the external environment
  • Consider how future conditions can affect the organization
  • Think of alternative strategies
  • Imagine the consequences of all actions and decisions
  • Develop contingency plans and long-range plans
  • Assess the ramifications for workforce and competency requirements
  • Develop gap-closing strategies in skills
  • Develop budgeting requirements

Your organization’s workforce is your most expensive asset. A recent Aberdeen report stated that over 60% of organizations had expressed a dire need to improve their workforce planning capabilities. Proper workforce planning has proven benefits when it comes to planning for future capabilities in 2020 (and beyond), it is not a luxury but a necessity. Workforce planning tools are a critical and necessary element of every HR professional’s toolkit. 

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