Businesses can be good at long-term, strategic thinking. You often hear of CEOs producing five-year plans, or product launches which were years in the making.
However, there are a lot of businesses which don’t apply this to the most important resource they have – their people.
In order to be successful, your workforce needs to be agile and performing at its optimal level. This isn’t easy, especially in the fast-changing world we now live in. How do you predict what type of talent you’ll need in a couple of years’ time? This is where workforce planning comes into play.
At its core, workforce planning ensures you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, at the right time. Here are some of the key things to consider.
Understand the gap between the skills you currently have, with what will be required down the line. If you think about the job titles and functions that existed 10 years ago compared to today - especially in tech – there’s a stark difference. Where did job titles like Tech Author and Cobol CICS DB2 go? Will today’s roles exist in 10 years’ time? The better your understanding, the better position you will be in.
You should also look at things like retirements, where you know people will be coming to the end of their careers in the near future and can plan accordingly. At the other end of the scale, make sure you’re up-to-date with the needs of the next generation. For example, what programme languages are the majority of tech graduates going to be using?
Where does the next generation of resource come from?
I don’t believe that hiring someone is always a case of simply employing them for a job. It’s an investment you’re making. So, you should try and make it a productive, long-term one. Look at your internal talent pipeline.
I love to hear stories of people who join a business at an entry level, often falling by accident into the industry or sector, and then moving up through the business. These are the people that are good learners and have the ability to develop new skills, adapt, and transform with the business.
I speak to clients that are on their digital transformation journey and say they need new skills that don’t exist in the business today. In fact, what they also need are good teachers. The best resource can sometimes be at the core of your business.
One of our clients at Lorien has a contact centre that provides customer service, resolution management, and support services. These teams are full of great learners with ambition and motivation, just looking for their next chance. They have real world experience of customer engagement – knowing what people want and don’t want. For the other teams in the business that are building products or solutions, this experience and knowledge is invaluable.
Another advantage of building a good internal talent pipeline, is that you have employees already brought into your business and its culture. This is crucial – sometimes businesses can spend months making a hire, only to find that person leave because they weren’t suited to the culture.
Hiring internally can also save you time and money – and yes, although I run a recruitment business, I am actually showing you a way you can go about to NOT pay recruitment fees all the time! Depending on the size of your business, this could save you thousands, if not millions.
It’s impossible to do everything related to workforce planning between one or two people. It really is an in-depth project, so you will need input from people across your business. Heads of departments, HR, Finance, Procurement – these are key stakeholders.
Some businesses are used to working in silos rather than a joined up approach. But as I’ve mentioned previously, the relationship between IT and HR in particular has never been more important. They really are two sides of the same coin.
It’s also worth getting external experts in. Sector specialists will be able to give you genuine insight into the market. At Lorien for example, we specialise within tech – so are able to identify workforce trends that often our clients haven’t picked up. The main thing is for the external company to work with you as a partner, not a supplier.
Identify obstacles and priorities
There will always be challenges but the earlier you can identify these, the better. Perhaps your benefits package isn’t competitive enough compared to other businesses in your space. Maybe your hiring team isn’t utilising enough recruitment channels, which is why your talent pool is limited.
You should also identify the main business goals and break them down by priority. Work out which departments have the most difficult-to-fill areas or the highest volume of vacancies. For example, with the upcoming IR35 legislation, I expect an increase in permanent vacancies within the IT and tech space. The smart companies are making sure they are prepared for a change in approach from contract workers to permanent ones.
As with most business strategies, the approach you take is bespoke to your own business. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. But by taking the time to map out your future needs, and your future routes to talent, you can give yourself a big advantage in these competitive times.
Want to find out more about workforce planning? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.