Workforce planning is much more than talent management and it’s not as much of a crystal ball as it might seem. With good preparation and the right strategic implementation workforce planning is a solid part of business operations that can give a company a strong competitive advantage. It includes a variety of aspects from succession planning to skill development and hiring decisions. It’s essentially about what your company will need from a short- and a long-term perspective and which skills you’ll be needing that you don’t already (sufficiently) have. Are you feeling the pulse of your industry? Do you know what’s coming? Workforce planning means you know what’s in the crystal ball. And you need to define your goals for it!
Use data right
At the heart of successful workforce planning is data. But not any data. Carefully evaluated and highly reliable data. Meaning: check your sources, invest in high quality data and – by far most importantly – carefully analyze and interpret the data. Because even the biggest amount of quality data can give you poor results if you don’t know how to use it.
That’s basically the first step in improving your workforce planning: get or develop the expertise necessary for interpretation and analysis of data. Make sure you have the manpower and the expertise for it and define what you want to achieve. Data can make tons of statements in all directions. Make sure the data gives you precise answers. It can be useful to spend some time on the evaluation of your data sources. There are a lot of sources for data that can be quite costly and not all of them are worth it.
Whenever you want to plan ahead, which is essentially what workforce planning is all about, you need to be able to predict and to map out developments that are going to matter to you and your plans. A close eye on your industry and the developments (of course also of your competition) is absolutely vital. Only if you can foresee the needs and changes, you can move in time to adapt. Failing to notice a growing demand in a certain business area (let’s say e.g. marketing) in time can cost you quite a lot of money and even put your whole business in jeopardy.
But you don’t only need to observe your industry, you also need to work inside your own company. Can you act on movements in your own company (retirement, promotions, resignations, etc.) flexibly enough? Can you develop skill sets of your existing employees into directions in demand?
Include strategic developments
Many of these aspects include strategic developments within your company. Do you have those lined up with your workforce planning? In order to effectively DO workforce planning you need to know what you’re planning for! Where’s your business strategy going and how does that translate into workforce? Does your data tell you what to do or do you make it work for you? Scale the project and integrate it properly so you don’t end up working on isolated problems instead of the big picture.