Resourcing Insight Blog

23 Mar RTT – Strategic Workforce Planning and Forecasting

Strategic Workforce PlanningIn times of unprecedented change, many organisations struggle to adequately balance supply and demand when it comes to their workforce. Once the preserve of the management consultancies and professional services organisations, the need for solid insight that supports better resource planning decisions (in a function already flooded with data) is now routinely sought by HR and Talent Acquisition (TA) functions seeking to demonstrate their agility and value to the business.

These are the thoughts and takeaways from a Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Friday 3rd March 2017 hosted at Canon Europe by Chris Wilcock (EMEA Talent Acquisition Manager).

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and Talent Acquisition professionals from leading national and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’

What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning is getting the right number of people with the right skills employed in the right place at the right time to deliver an organisation’s short and long-term objectives. Workforce planning should be linked to strategic business goals and viewed as an important part of the strategic business planning process.

Workforce planning is our opportunity as a TA function to ‘get in front of the curve’. It’s a way to ensure we are relevant as a function and to avoid being on the back foot, and to ensure we deliver a more proactive and measured service to our organisation, whilst adding the most value.

Educating the business that TA should be involved in key business strategy and upcoming ‘wins’ is key as well as partnering with HR, as workforce planning ensures a project can be delivered quickly and efficiently from day one. Does everyone involved understand the timing of business needs against ability to hire? If not, how do we gain this buy in? Does your business know or share the cost impact for not hiring a role?

Who owns workforce planning?

Perhaps this is an easier question to answer for businesses with smaller headcounts where TA is more likely to have direct access to the CEO or Board level stakeholders. However, as our organisations grow, and despite this being as important, more ‘people barriers’ appear. For the larger organisations, the process should be connected through TA, HR & Finance, with all having shared responsibility and involvement.

Forecasting your workforce plan

Small organisations – Can plan strategically, and reactive numbers are small and manageable

Mid-size organisations – Same as above but are also able to monitor movers and leavers

Large organisations – Challenges are more reactive to business change bids or contract wins/losses

Time & cost to hire vs. quality of hire

Does your business know what to expect from TA and what does TA expect in return? Can your business units map out what is needed (skills, locations, level)?

Some organisations assume resource is at hand. Top talent is hard to find, therefore you undoubtedly need prior warning of upcoming needs. The challenge is that as a business grows, demand becomes high and immediate. Is there a way to better forecast, whereby we spread the need over more than one quarter, making the recruitment and on-boarding process more manageable, and therefore increasing the likelihood of sourcing higher quality hires?

A shorter timescale is realistically more expensive as outside resource (agency, advertising) may be needed.

Measuring success

Everything starts with data. So information is key. Metrics such as numbers hired, time to hire, cost to hire, tenure, promotions (to name a few) will all help you create a starting point. We need to build on this data every time to help create a factual picture of what is realistic as much as to show improvements on delivery.

Key Takeaways:

  • Larger organisations should take the small business approach with a direct line to the top table in order to gain a clear understanding of the business’s direction and aims, ensuring visibility for long-term hiring needs
  • Important to build a continual picture using data to add substance and to support your case. Knowing your numbers is fundamental
  • Educate your business on the benefit of workforce planning drawing on metrics they’ll identify with e.g. the cost per hire increases as lead-time decreases. Does your organisation want the best talent at the time or the best talent on the market?
  • Share the knowledge. Can we work with the business, HR, Finance as a partner?

To find out more about the Think Tank RTT – Strategic Workforce Planning and Forecasting:

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