In many parts of the world, labor markets are under stress. Companies are struggling to find employees with the right mix of skills and to apply those skills effectively and efficiently. As a result, strategic workforce planning is garnering considerable attention today, and workforce planning software is in high demand.

Workforce planning means analyzing a company’s existing staffing levels, then anticipating and planning for future needs. It impacts recruitment and hiring,  employee promotion, retention and turnover policies, and learning and development programs. Workforce planning is ultimately about fulfilling the company’s strategic goals, addressing its needs at a tactical level, and increasing productivity.

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Like any other planning process, strategic workforce planning has both short-term and long-term implications. A short-term goal might be to onboard enough workers to increase production in the coming quarter, for example, so that the company can fulfill orders during a seasonal peak.

Longer-term trends, such as a new wave of generational requirements, should also be on the radar for strategically-minded human resources managers. Large companies that operate mainframe computers, for example, are currently facing a rapidly diminishing pool of skilled COBOL programmers.

Strategic workforce planning encompasses the entire picture, everything to do with human resources within the company. Having said that, it is necessarily a collaborative function. In other words, HR managers must work closely with other business units to ensure that plans meet the needs of all stakeholders.

Here are some best practices for strategic workforce planning in 2022:

1. Understand the Organization’s Strategic Goals

The entire workforce planning process should flow from the company’s strategic objectives. That means looking ahead to a far horizon and understanding what the organization’s needs will look like in three to five years. If the company intends to expand, for example, the plan should cultivate up-and-coming talent to fill management roles as the business grows. You’ll want people who have experience in the company to step up and lead during the years ahead.

2. Understand the Organization’s Tactical Goals

Workforce planning is also about the short and medium term. If the company needs to ramp up capacity over the coming year to meet additional demand, HR should work with production and fulfillment to understand the specific skill sets required, timelines, and onboarding scenarios.

3. Assess Your Current Workforce

Finance and Human Resources must work together to understand staffing requirements, including the number of people required vs. how many are currently on staff and projected employee turnover. This analysis will need to include a breakdown of employees by skill set (including any specialized training or certifications required), to be mapped against expected capacity requirements and projected productivity levels. Analysts need to understand both the hard costs and soft costs associated with hiring and training new employees.

4. Determine Your Need for Elasticity

In many industries, like construction and hospitality, companies must be capable of scaling up or down quickly. This may be the result of fairly predictable seasonal changes, uncertainty with respect to future sales volumes, or potential disruptions that could impact the business. To plan with accuracy, analysts must understand their business’s natural ebb and flow of workforce requirements and keep an ear to the ground for impending disruptions.

A strategic workforce plan should include the use of contractors or outsourced services to accommodate the need for greater elasticity.

5. Identify Future Skills Needed

Working with leaders throughout the organization, HR should identify the skill sets required to support the business as its needs change. Planned projects or technology initiatives, product launches, or geographical expansion, for example, will dictate the particular skills and experience required to fulfill those plans successfully.

This list of requirements should be matched against an inventory of existing skills in the company’s workforce, resulting in a list of projected gaps and a roadmap for future recruitment.

6. Consider Alternative Scenarios

In many cases, a company’s executive management may be entertaining two or more potential future scenarios, such as a geographical expansion versus serving a new segment of customers within the company’s existing geographical footprint. The strategic workforce plan should allow for analysis of these different scenarios covering all potential outcomes on management’s radar.

Scenario analysis can also be useful in developing contingency plans in the context of an uncertain business environment. Following the initial onset of the global pandemic, for example, business leaders across virtually every industry turned to scenario planning to gain deeper insight into what the future might hold and how they might respond most effectively to rapidly changing conditions.

7. Define Your KPIs

As the strategic workforce planning process unfolds, participants should consider which quantifiable data points will be most meaningful in defining the success of the program. In other words, it’s important to establish metrics that will indicate whether or not the plan is on track to succeed. More than ever, successful organizations are relying on real-time metrics for insights into what’s working, what’s not, and how they might improve outcomes.

8. Monitor and Adjust

Planning processes are critically important, but change is inevitable. As the company moves forward, human resources professionals must be prepared to adapt and change as tactical and strategic priorities shift. It follows that planning tools must allow for ongoing input and collaboration with stakeholders across the organization, with the flexibility to modify targets to fit the organization’s changing requirements.

9. Equip Yourself With the Right Tools

Finally, it’s important to have the right tools in place to make the entire process work smoothly. Human resources has some special requirements with respect to the privacy and security of confidential employee data. Company executives need HR analytics that give them a complete picture, including employer taxes, benefits, and other non-wage expenses. They need anytime/anywhere access to critical information about compensation and employee performance, for example, to help them identify trends and achieve the company’s goals. Yet the security and confidentiality of that information is paramount. Having the right analytical tools in place, with collaboration features and adequate security, is critical.

With insightsoftware’s planning, reporting, and analytics solutions, you can align workforce planning with broader company objectives, collaborate with key leaders throughout your organization, and get real-time data and insights to the right people securely. You can recruit smarter by streamlining your processes and maximizing your total return on recruitment investment. To learn more, contact us today for a free, no-obligation demo.

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