Strategic workforce planning matters today because organizations are reporting significant difficulty hiring key talent when they need it. Unemployment is shrinking in many sectors of the economy, and that means many organizations are finding it harder than ever to close talent gaps.
The better you plan for future talent gaps the better prepared you are to address them. But in an era of rapid change, how do we keep workforce plans relevant to the shifting needs of the business? There’s no silver bullet to solve this problem, but it deserves our focus.
Navigating this terrain is difficult, which is why we’re sharing a few strategies to help you address your workforce planning challenges with greater agility and respond dynamically to new priorities and strategic shifts. We’ve tailored these practices to be relevant to just about anyone focused on workforce planning. Whether you’re a team of one or a global center of excellence, we believe this information will make you better at your job.
Identify key stakeholders and speak with them regularly. Regular check-ups with stakeholders in different functions and lines of business is a good practice for any talent professional, but it is absolutely crucial to becoming a more effective workforce planner. Get to know these people and understand their long term concerns. If they make reference to a new initiative or a strategic shift like entering a new market, take the opportunity to learn about it and discuss any talent ramifications it may have. Regular, informal check-in conversations with stakeholders are also a great way to make sure everyone is executing on their responsibilities for current workforce plans.
Use real-time data from outside HR. While talent data is obviously a crucial input for strategic workforce planning, we need to collect and analyze information from other areas of the business to get a more complete understanding of the business and its needs. Look for operational metrics that might signal a change in downstream talent needs. Consider financial projections that could impact your talent budget. Refresh your data regularly to ensure you’re properly equipped to adjust or update workforce plans mid-stream.
Use storytelling to help stakeholders consider alternate scenarios. The flexibility of your workforce plan depends on your ability to imagine and plan for a range of possible futures regarding a key segment of your workforce (e.g., what do we do if the talent supply goes up, supply goes down, or stays the same?). One way to get your stakeholders engaged in this process is to create plausible, realistic scenarios for them to respond to (e.g., a larger than expected number of engineers will retire in 18 months).