Talent Management, retention plans andmobility. Ask any CEO and these are some of the top areas that they constantly try to manage among their workforce. Just as every successful project requires a certain level of planning, so does every organisation and the constituting workforce. This is the purpose of workforce planning. Skills, experiences and future aspirations of employees vary widely and need to be taken into consideration along with organisational strategy. Workforce planning is a particularly unique part of business forecasting as it involves the most dynamic element – people.

It forms the core of human resource management and is an essential tool for
ensuring that organisational objectives are met with the right people performing the right jobs at the most constructive time. It is a strategic and systematic approach to ensuring a sustainable workforce. Workforce planning allows employers to plan better for current and future workforce issues, deploy staff and better organize job designs, reduce turnover and offer more flexibility.

Current workforce trends show that aging demographics, increased mobility and the educational system are some of the factors influencing workforce turnover. When employees leave a company, they take away the knowledge and experience that has been invested, creating a skills void and the need for
reinvestment in time and resources to fill that gap. Economic challenges affect the business’ confidence in taking on more apprentices, and may also result in a hiring freeze or even downsizing to cut cost. Without workforce planning, an organisation may suffer a severe skill shortage in the wake of these happenings.

A diverse range of activities constitute workforce planning; talent management,
succession planning, skills audit analysis, recruitment and retention planning, job design and career planning among others.

  1. Identify and analyse current workforce
    Before planning begins, the organizational strategy needs to be reviewed and must form the basis from which all strategies are created and implemented. From this perspective, employers can understand the strategic position of the current workforce and what is required to meet the organisational goals. Are the work force challenges brought on due to changes in the organisations strategic plan? Or are they externally influenced by changing workforce demographics or budget cuts? Employers can then analyse the current labour demand and supply situation. Trends in turnover, mobility, compensation and role values are identified and used to make a projection of the expected workforce after planning. These projections must be discussed with business leaders and should be open to changes as it will most likely be refined along the way.

Most employers realise that their current workforce may require a certain level of skill alignment to sharpen their ‘tools’ for productivity and goal attainment. A skills gap analysis is the most efficient way to plan for this. Remember that skills are not always in deficit and can also be in excess where resources will have to be moved to other key roles. Career development programmes are comprehensive tools used by HR managers to close employee skill gaps.

2. Define workforce goals and requirements
Goals must be precise and focus on matters that are critical to business growth. A good example for a clear and common goal is – reduction in employee turnover. The workforce requirements must then be defined to reach the desired outcomes – develop employee compensation and benefits plan to support new strategy, redefine recruiting system to be aligned with corporate values. As always, goals or objectives have to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, result oriented and timely). Are your goals well defined or generalised and lacking a definite target? Can your team measure the value of this goal and use indicators to quantify the success rate? Looking at current constraints, are your goals attainable or they do they barely push your team out of the comfort zone

3. Build strategies
From problem analysis and goal identification comes strategy building to create a road map to achieving the set goals. Will the talent needs be met internally through development plans or will they be bought?

Are there alternative ways to achieve these goals to minimize cost without compromising on quality or success rates? Building strategies require a lot of brainstorming with business leaders to arrive at the most suitable decisions considering factors such as available resources, cost implications, time frame, and risk elements, among others. A good strategy adopts a more rounded approach and takes account of the interrelated nature of workforce issues. Employers are encouraged to adopt ‘strategy clusters’ where possible, to favour a more comprehensive solution to workforce issues which usually do not stand in isolation.

Unlike single based strategies which only focus on one problem and its proposed solution, strategy clusters group the identified problems and offers innovative holistic solutions. Strategies of this nature must be seen as
projects on their own, with a project leader and an appointed team to introduce, implement and evaluate the strategy turned project. Stakeholders must be given the necessary details to gain their buy–in and establish their key roles. Pay special attention to recruiting
procedures, on boarding and informal training programmes. Benchmark your processes with other organisations in the same industry. Most workforce issues have been experienced before and so there will most likely be a pre-existing solution that just needs adaptation to your specific needs. Create succession plans to act as a cushion for employee turnovers. The role of HR business partners cannot be over emphasized here. Their efforts will be required to translate these business plans into individual agendas for people.

4. Implement, monitor and evaluate
Draw up an action plan, set timelines and priorities along with the required resources. Explicate communication plans that would inform all concerned parties of the imminent changes, the need for them, expected improvements and the role that everyone is expected to play.

Communication plans are vital to the successful implementation of any project. Information should be shared at the right time and in the right language using the appropriate channels. Review policies to reflect the changes made and standardise them across all departments or geographical regions. Monitoring of implementation plans should
be done on a regular basis and all throughout the project. Most project owners wait until full implementation to begin monitoring andevaluation. This gives room for inconsistencies and increases the risk of overlooking certain key areas. Are staff members responding well to training programmes? How much time does it take to see results from such
development plans? What are the current cost figures as against earlier projections made? A flexible plan should be able to incorporate the changes that are inevitably going to come along the way.

5. Continuity
After all is said and done, how do we ensure that this development plan is kept in motion? Many projects begin with a desirable level of commitment and drive but only a few are sustained after a certain period. Set periodic checks along the way and tie them in with the organisational calendar. Managers and business owners have the most influence in any transition plan and in sustaining a desired outcome. Adopt the use of constructive feedback based on work rather than the individual or your emotions. Change processes require ample time and flexibility so employees must be given the opportunity and support to get it right. Be open to suggestions from all employees and value their input, encouraging a participative style of management.

By: Kuukuah Baiden


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