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Strategic workforce planning has become the latest buzzword in HR circles, with more companies adopting a strategic view of workforce planning and recruitment. However, very few companies truly know what it means to be “strategic” in their workforce planning activities.

Often, companies find themselves hiring people on a reactive basis. For example, a new cycle of hiring starts only after a bunch of employees put down their resignations. Or the HR quickly fills-in open roles by hiring the first relevant applicants they find without checking whether their skills are future-proof or not.

Unfortunately, this type of behaviour isn’t a one-off case. Many companies resort to arbitrary or ad hoc hiring decisions, which may help them at-the-moment, but which can have a terrible impact on the company in the long run.

This is where strategic workforce planning helps.

Strategic workforce planning is the process of determining the future human resource needs of the company and recruiting those individuals who will bring in the skillsets of the future. When you plan strategically, you have the right people, with the right skills, at the right time.

Moving from reactive workforce planning to proactive workforce planning tips

Proactive workforce planning refers to strategic workforce planning. It is vital to actively and consciously anticipate the changes in the industry and hire for future job-fit. You must consider the strategic responsibilities of the company and find applicants who can help you meet these goals.

Now, let’s see how you can implement your strategic workforce planning process in the right way:

1. Get rid of workplace planning misconceptions

Most strategic workforce planning hiccups occur because of misconceptions about workforce planning.  These wrong beliefs affect the way people participate in the process. 

For example, there’s a very popular misconception that small businesses and start-ups don’t need workforce planning. But the truth is, workforce planning can yield positive results no matter the size of the company. In start-ups, strategic workforce planning can ensure that you spend your shoestring hiring budget on the right people. In larger companies, workforce planning ensures that you infuse the needed diversity to help your mammoth organization move into the new era.

Another misconception is that workforce planning is the sole responsibility of the HR department. But this is false. Departmental managers and project managers are aware of the unique hiring needs of their divisions. If they participate in the strategic workforce planning process, they can ensure that the hiring process brings the best outcomes.

There’s another really fatalistic misconception about workforce planning – that every plan/strategy should be perfect and no modifications can be made once you implement the plan. But change is an inevitable part of life and as you implement your recruitment plans, factors like market conditions, competitors, company growth, etc. necessitate changes in your hiring strategies.

The participants of the strategic workforce planning process must realize that the exercise is robust and dynamic. Otherwise, your strategic workforce planning will bring the wrong type of hires.

2. Consciously track your company’s changing internal landscape

Your company is a living and breathing organism. It constantly transforms and grows in its:

  • Scope of operations
  • Staff profile
  • Customer profile
  • Culture

For example, your company may be moving from a very hierarchical-based environment to an open and flat environment. Or, you may have started hiring people from overseas, instead of just locally, making your corporate culture very diverse.

 All of these facets impact the strategic workforce planning process. That’s why it becomes imperative that you monitor and keep track of the changes that take place in your company and evaluate how these changes are affecting:

  • The nature and quality of your workforce (their skillsets and competencies, motivation, absenteeism, productivity, etc).
  • Your brand image in the market.
  • Your desirability as an employer in the niche.
  • Your attrition and retention rates.
  • Your performance, against your competitors’.

 It’s necessary to constantly track these changes and understand the direction your company is heading towards. You should also check whether these transformations are in-line with your company’s mission, vision and objectives or not. If they aren’t, you need to evaluate how you can eliminate these gaps, to bring your company’s growth in alignment with your long-term goals. It is a must to evaluate how your hiring practices need to change to meet these corporate-wide changes.

3. Set the stage for action

The right environment can make all the difference between a successful strategic workforce planning exercise and an unsuccessful one. To create a conducive environment, you’ll need to bring multiple resources together such as:

  • Data

Data is the primary requirement for any successful strategic workforce planning exercise. But data can be very overwhelming if it isn’t filtered according to requirements. Typically, you’ll need the following data to successfully run the strategic workforce planning process:

  • The number of existing employees in each role, their pay, & location.
    • The number of temp workers that need replacing & the number of temp-to-fulltime conversions.
    • Work history, skillsets, gaps in skills, training underwent, & contribution to team/company goals – for each employee.
    • Retention & attrition rates for each team & each location and its common cause.
    • The number of open positions in each job type.
    • Time taken to fill-up an open position in each role.
    • Cost per hire for each role.
    • Predictive data about at-risk (of leaving) employees.

It’s necessary that you encourage departmental managers, project managers, and line managers to document everything about their teams. Updating staff details on a centralized database can ensure that your workforce planning team always has access to the information when needed. 

  • Technology

Data is pretty useless if you don’t have the right technology to process it into usable metrics. This is where predictive analytics technology help. Such technology leverage artificial intelligence to gather and process information about your existing employment, hiring trends, and candidate/employee behaviours. The tools produce comprehensive reports about your existing workforce, predict the changes in your staff profile, and forecast hiring needs for the future.

Then there is specialized talent management software like Talenx.io which helps you judge the job-fit of applicants by analyzing their professional history, personality, and skills/competencies. This software produces detailed candidates’ profile reports, which you can utilize to match open positions with the right people, bringing in the skillsets you need.

  • External expertise

Many times, you may not have the knowledge or experience needed to plan and hire for the future. During such instances, it’s okay to invite external consultants to advise you about the next steps.

These individuals could be recruitment consultants or specialists who have knowledge about the upcoming revolution in the industry. It could also be political or sustainability consultants, who can advise you about the type of skills that candidates for leadership roles may need to possess in a challenging market.

Together, your internal data, technology and external advisory can help you create a targeted and streamlined strategic workforce plan.

4. Create effective and transparent lines of communication within the company

No strategic workforce planning can occur without buy-in and collaboration from other teams/departments. There needs to be an open, welcoming, and transparent line of communication and feedback between all stakeholders.

Technology can help facilitate communication and collaboration. For one, the HR department can share opinion surveys with other managers and company leaders, to understand their strategic hiring needs. These surveys are also a great tool to take stock of the diversity and skills inventory of each department, to identify the existing gaps.  

Webinars/online meetings can be conducted with managers and C-suite executives to discuss strategies for workforce planning. A common hiring applicant tracking system dashboard can be shared with departments, where both the HR and other teams can monitor the workforce planning and hiring process, vetting applicants together, and hiring candidates who can really benefit the company in the long run. Intra-company messaging services can be employed to share hiring updates and ask for immediate feedback from the teams involved.

5. Put together the right workforce planning team to lead your hiring efforts

Finally, the most important tip to follow when running a strategic workforce planning exercise is to set-up the right workforce planning team. After all, if your workforce planning team isn’t clear-headed and don’t understand the vision of the company, then the entire strategic workforce planning exercise will fail.

First off, top management buy-in is crucial for the success of the strategic workforce planning process. So, it’s imperative that you have a company leader – CEO, board member, VP, etc. – at the helm of the project. Once there’s a leader championing the exercise, others will follow suit.

Next, it’s necessary to include top members from those functional teams, which will be immediately affected by the incoming workforce. For example, company compensation head, production floor manager, chief financial officer, technology head, etc. These are the people, whose functions the quality of candidates will impact/divisions you hire, either in the form of on-the-job productivity or cost-of-hire or employee creativity, etc. Together, these people will be able to channel the team’s efforts in the right direction and plan for a budget-friendly and successful strategic workforce hiring.

Choose Talenx.io for your strategic workforce hiring exercise

Our predictive talent management software is designed to facilitate planning and execution of your strategic workforce hiring campaigns. We use personality science to offer important insights about each job applicant. 

With our comprehensive data-driven candidate competency reports, you’ll be able to make the right decisions about an applicant’s potential to fill the open role and create high-performing teams that generate long-term positive value to your company.

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