Article contributed by Meredith Wise
I know that many of you reading this are still very busy putting out the myriad of fires we are all fighting. As hard as it is though, it’s time to break away from the fires and look to the future. Pressure is building around diversity initiatives, quickly planned retirements, requests for part-time hours or totally leaving the workforce due to COVID-related needs, long times to fill open positions, growing production or customer service needs, changing technology and increased automation. For our organizations to thrive into the future, we need to plan what our workforce needs will be. If we wait and just react when vacancies come about, the likelihood of having the skills and capabilities we need when we need them will be slim. So how do we start? Read on for a plan to build your workforce plan!
So don’t cringe . . . to plan for the future, you need to start in the past. Your payroll system, HRIS or just your excel skills will help here. The first step is to map out what your workforce has looked like in each of the last 3 – 5 years. Break your workforce down into job titles or job families and for each detail, the incumbents: their age, seniority, gender, protected classes, pay rates, and performance measures. If possible, develop a skills inventory for each individual, or for each job title.
The second step is to calculate the movement of staff: turnover, internal transfers, and growth or promotions for each job title or job family over the last 3 – 5 years. Next, with this information, you can project out over the next 3 – 5 years. With the anticipated turnover, projected retirements, and traditional hiring and promotion/transfer patterns, what will the incumbent workforce look like in each job title or job family in each of the next 3 to 5 years?
Once you have that projection, it’s time to pull your leadership team together and review your organization’s strategic plan. What are the jobs you’ll need to achieve the plan’s goals? What are the additional skills, knowledge or competencies you’ll need? Will the plan require any change in workflow which will affect staffing levels or capabilities? When will you need those skills?
With the data from this exercise, you can now do a gap analysis. You will have put together what your workforce will look like for the next 3 – 5 years if you continue with the same actions you’ve traditionally taken. Does that align with what the organization will need? If not, and I’m just guessing, but for many, it won’t meet your future needs, how are you going to obtain the additional workforce you need? It may be just new skills and abilities, it may be increasing in the number of employees, it may be new employees in different geographies. The questions though will remain the same – can you “grow” the skills in-house? Do you have individuals who can take on new responsibilities or are eager to learn new competencies? Will you need to hire from outside? If yes, where will you find those individuals? Do you need to set up relationships, internships or other avenues to be able to identify candidates? Do you have the financial and workflow capacity to begin hiring that new talent now?
To use other terms, your workforce plan will basically be looking at the supply side of your workforce, the demand side, the gap and the solutions. Once developed, it will be easier to maintain. You’ll find that you’ll come back to it for any number of decisions and actions. It will help you set diversity goals and determine attainment. It will provide the foundation for pay equity audits and decisions. It will identify, rather quickly areas where retention or attracting new talent is challenging. And with all of the data, it will allow you to evaluate new policies, programs or actions which have been implemented as solutions to your gap analysis. It will take you away from the fires you are currently fighting. It will take time to develop however along the way you’ll be able to develop new skills and competencies, and perhaps build new relationships within your organization. It is an invaluable component to your organization’s continued health! So back away from the fires . . . let someone else handle them for a while. Take a proactive step to looking to the future!
Guidance Through The Workforce Planning Process
Don’t let the description of this process overwhelm you. While workforce planning isn’t a small task, it is manageable with the right data points and some planning. Join me for EANE’s Workforce Planning Workshop to learn the intricacies of this process and analyze some common business challenges that are likely to impact your workforce. Together, we can explore the creative solutions that can help you meet those challenges and plan for the talent needs that will grow your business!