Anyone who is running a company or managing a department knows that it’s not an easy job. A good manager has dozens of balls in the air at any given time. He has to deal with supervising and training employees, filling job vacancies, overseeing production and administration, managing costs, and keeping an eye on employee morale.
One thing that can make wearing all those different hats feel a bit more manageable is doing something called workforce planning. In this article, we will explain what that is, and how you can use it to make your job easier.
The ABCs of Workforce Planning
To the uninitiated, workforce planning might sound like one of those meaningless corporate buzzwords, the kind of thing people talk about in meetings but don’t really understand. While corporate America is certainly full of such words, workforce planning is something that can help your company be more efficient and profitable.
Workforce planning is an umbrella term that is used to describe several things that a manager or company can do to maximize productivity. It is also sometimes known as a human capital plan, or talent management. Regardless of what you call it, though, at its heart it’s about finding ways to make the most of your greatest asset – your employees.
Workforce planning includes:
- Managing your company’s employment and staffing needs
- Developing workplace standards and rules
- Managing collective bargaining agreements
- Organizing the staff and assigning work
- Overseeing the corporate culture
- Predicting and offsetting risk
Even if you’re not using the term, as a manager part of your job involves handling the above issues. Workforce planning is a way of handling them in the most efficient way possible.
Benefits of Workforce Planning
If you’re not convinced that workforce planning can help you, let’s look at some of the benefits of implementing it in your company:
- It makes budgeting easier. When you have a clear handle on your staffing resources and needs, it’s a lot easier to budget for necessary hires and training than it would be if you were examining your staffing on an as-needed basis.
- It deepens your talent pool. Good companies promote from within, and when you understand what your employees can do, you can groom them for advancement later in their careers. Employee turnover is expensive, and having a specific plan in place to help you train employees and move them up the ladder can help you make better hiring decisions.
- It enables you to plan for the future. Every company wants to grow and succeed, and managing your human resources is essential if you want to ensure your future success. Good workforce planning using a best-in-class workforce management software system will help you estimate future production and staffing needs and plan accordingly.
- It helps you to identify talent gaps that can cost your company money. A manager who doesn’t identify weaknesses and gaps in his workforce is setting himself up for problems down the line. If you know you need employees who have certain abilities, it can help you to do things like rewrite job descriptions and highlight certain needs when you advertise open positions.
- It highlights crucial roles that need to be filled. Sometimes a company needs to create new positions. Effective workforce management allows you to identify organizational problems and address them before they turn into major issues.
Every company, regardless of its size, can benefit from implementing a workforce planning strategy.
How to Implement Workforce Planning
If you haven’t yet implemented workforce planning at your company, don’t worry. While it will require some effort on your part, the steps you need to take are fairly straightforward. Here’s what you need to do to get started:
First, have a clearly-defined business strategy.
It’s not possible to understand your workforce needs unless you first identify what it is you want to accomplish going forward. What are your intentions? Do you want to double your sales? Research and develop new products? Improve upon existing products? The goals that you set for your company will help you make the right hiring and training decisions now.
Second, research and understand the labor market in your area.
The only way you can plan for current and future hiring needs is if you know what the hiring climate is like. What is the unemployment rate? What is the housing situation in your area? What is the cost of living? All of these factors can have a direct impact on your ability to fill crucial positions on your staff.
Third, evaluate the talents of your current staff.
The point of workforce planning is to make the most of the people who work for you now, and to identify the qualities you need to seek out in those you hire in the future. It’s important to look not only for current skills your employees have, but to evaluate future potential as well. Does someone who is currently filling an administrative role have the capacity to move into management in the future? There’s only one way to tell, and that’s by taking the time to evaluate your staff now.
Fourth, understand your future talent needs.
The next step is to look at your business plan and determine what talents you will need in order to achieve your goals. If you want to increase sales, you need skilled salespeople. If you want to innovate new products, you need creative minds who understand your industry and possess the technical know-how necessary to conceptualize a new product.
Finally, identify gaps and strategize ways to fill them.
The final step is to compare your future talent needs with your current talent and determine what’s missing. The reason you need to do both is that some of your existing staff may have the potential to meet your future needs if you provide them with the right training and education. You can’t know that unless you evaluate them.
If you spot potential, it gives you the opportunity to lay out an employee training strategy to prepare your current employees for the future. On the other hand, a clear gap in skills and potential can help you make strategic hiring decisions to close the gap.
Workforce planning requires time and effort on your part, but it’s the kind of effort that can pay big dividends in the future. Not only that, but not doing it can have a negative impact on your bottom line.