Workforce planning is one of the 10 biggest HR issues in 2019

September 3, 2019

A survey of 800+ HR professionals revealed workforce planning as a top 10 HR issue for 2019. There are many reasons why this is such a tricky issue, and there are a lot of moving parts to consider.

Let’s look at what workforce planning is, why it is such a challenge, and some of the smaller things you can do to make it a little easier.

What is workforce planning?

Workforce planning is a big part of strategic HR. It is a very broad term, which describes the way you align your business needs, with the needs of your workforce. And there are many moving parts.

A good workforce planning strategy will consider the following:

  1. What the business needs
  2. Which skills are required to meet these needs
  3. How to attract people with these skills
  4. How to retain these employees
  5. What to do when they leave (succession planning)

Of course, the reality of workforce planning is far more complex than this. And that’s probably why it came up as one of the top 10 HR challenges of 2019.

Why workforce planning is such an obstacle for HR

In late 2018, XpertHR surveyed over 800 HR professionals. And in doing so, they ranked the top 10 HR and compliance challenges for 2019. Naturally, workforce planning came up as a very strong contender.

Here are the challenges that many respondents felt are were very or extremely challenging:

  • Finding high-quality applicants
  • Ensuring the right skill sets for now and the future
  • Creating a succession plan
  • Increasing engagement, morale and satisfaction
  • Retaining employees
  • Performance management
  • Providing opportunities for professional development
  • Aligning retention with business objectives
  • Managing layoffs or downsizing

Factors that will impact the way you plan

When you undertake workforce planning, there are many things to take into consideration. Each of these elements will influence your plan, so make sure you don’t leave a single stone unturned.

Here are some good areas to consider as part of your plan:

  • Technology. For example, how might mobile devices help your workforce communicate better, and work more productively?
  • Science. Think about how advances in robotics and artificial intelligence may reduce your need for human capital.
  • Globalisation. Will your plan be influenced by the movement towards a global marketplace?
  • Flexible working. Consider the impact of remote working, and your employees’ rights to request flexible working.
  • Outsourcing. The gig economy could affect how you source skills, and you may find it helpful to consider independent contractors instead of permanent staff.
  • Legislation. As laws and regulations change, so might your hiring, training, compensation or disciplinary practices.
  • Demographics. Think about life expectancies, and how you might need to integrate different generations under one roof.

As you can see, there is a lot to take into account. And within bigger organisations, workforce planning is not a one-person job!

Three hot tips from a workforce planning expert

I spoke to Tammy Perkins, Chief People Officer of Pacific Market International. I asked her what she thought the top tip was that HR professionals could take onboard, if they were struggling with workforce planning.

She gave me three.

  1. Understand each position. Tammy says that you should understand each position before you recruit for it. If you don’t know what their overall responsibilities are going to be, then you might want to find out – or even hand the recruitment over to somebody who does.
  2. Identify future skills. You probably understand your business goals. So it pays to imagine which skills you will probably need once you achieve these goals! Tammy says that you should assess the positions you will need long-term to achieve future growth.
  3. Identify critical roles. When it comes to succession planning, you should already have a successor in mind, for each critical role within your business. Tammy says that your successor list for critical positions could include both internal and external candidates. But the important part is the advance planning.

Tammy says that “good workforce planning involves having a strong strategy for hiring the right talent, keeping retention levels high, upskilling your workforce and reliable succession planning.”

She adds that you also need to manage the resources available to pay for all of this!

 

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