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Talking Candidly About Workforce Planning for HR Executives

October 15, 2019 | Shannon Shoemaker

I recently attended a Healthcare Talent Symposium with a group of organizational leaders in the healthcare industry and had the unique opportunity to hear from both speakers and participants about their most significant concerns, challenges and struggles in talent acquisition today. One thing stood out above the others, and it’s something every HR leader and team member faces: workforce planning. We must balance the needs of our team and our recruiting budget and support with our company goals, plus find a way to predict what the marketplace is going to look like in one, three and five years for our particular industry.

In order to be successful HR leaders, it’s imperative to understand your executive team including their business needs, goals and expectations. As an HR partner, your role in workforce planning is at the heart of what really matters to your company leaders. It’s not just about getting a seat at the executive table. Workforce planning support means that you and your team are responsible for the forecasting that allows you to properly plan for your recruitment advertising and marketing spend, requisition workload, and expected deliverables.

 

How Workforce Planning Supports Your HR Efforts

If we’ve learned anything in the past decade as we’ve reached a near-zero unemployment economy, it’s that we must be proactive in our recruiting efforts in order to be successful. We’re not just rubber stamping resumes and filling requisitions; we’re looking to the future and how we can create a talent pipeline for both immediate needs and what our company will need in the next several years.

Workforce planning and forecasting starts with measuring your teams efforts and metrics, understanding their limitations and the workloads they can handle to maintain optimum performance. Some of the most common approaches to recruiting forecasting include:

 

    • Replacement planning is a charting technique that lists each business role according to department, notes whether the role is currently filled and if so, provides relevant information about the employee holding the position.
    • Allocation planning looks to see if staffing needs can be met by reallocating current employees or if the business needs to access the external labor force.
    • Nominal group planning is a team-oriented forecasting technique that develops a forecasting framework. For example, after conducting replacement and allocation planning, a team that includes the business owner and department managers can then hold a discussion about staffing requirements for the next reporting period and make forecasting decisions together.

 

Many companies use a combination of these tactics, while larger companies rely heavily on group planning, as they must project talent needs broken out by specific department and roles within that department. Whether you start with replacement planning or group planning, some of the best workforce planning models use a sophisticated spreadsheet that pulls in data and reporting from multiple sources to give you a strategic staffing representation that allows you to communicate organizational performance goals, timelines and expected metrics (monthly turnover rate, human capital cost, hiring rate, retention rates, time to hire, and so on).

 

How to Gain Support from Executives for Your Workforce Planning Strategies

When building a workforce planning model, consider how the information you’re presenting achieves the following:

 

1. Build credibility and relationships with your executive team.

Your executive team expects you and your team to lead change within your organization. Your leadership team is the best starting place for you and your team to understand the organization’s high-level goals for growth and the expectations around competencies you’ll be seeking in candidates in the future. In order to establish trust and credibility, it’s important that your company leadership knows that their goals and expectations are what drives your workforce planning and forecasting, along with how you plan to meet these expectations.

2. Measure your impact. Be up front on areas of improvement and create goals and targets for members of your team. 

Where are you growing, what business areas are changing, shifting and what is being outsourced? The information you’ve gathered from your company leadership is going to drive your team’s KPIs. Additionally, forecasting and benchmarking important strategic metrics like time-to-fill allows you to build your recruitment marketing strategies, which gives you time to plan creative and innovative campaigns that results in a robust talent pipeline and hiring funnel.

3. Communicate goals, expectations, and current state. Support these conversations with weekly dashboards to hiring managers and executive leaders.

Being able to tie the success of your recruitment marketing efforts and programs to organizational growth and revenue is the best way to speak the language of your company leadership. While we use lots of data to make decisions in HR and recruiting, the only metrics that matter to your leadership team are the ones that have a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. See item 1 and ensure that you’re communicating the progress of the specific areas your executive team has identified.

4. Meet with your leadership and customers (hiring managers) frequently. Commit to weekly or twice monthly meetings to share results, metrics, and challenges.

Creating a continuous communication loop with stakeholders and hiring managers ensures that you and your team’s efforts stay focused on the results that are tied to high-level organizational goals. You’ll want to touch base regularly and be direct. Ask what you and your team can do better, what you’re doing right, what you could do differently. Your role as a strategic partner is to direct your department resources into the staffing, hiring, and employee engagement programs that are bringing in and retaining top talent. The best assessment of your success outside of data is direct feedback from your company stakeholders.

 

Workforce Planning Supports the Entire Organization for the Long Term

Finally, it’s important to understand how your role as a strategic partner not only achieves the results expected by company leadership, but also sets your department up for success. In departments like HR, we must be able to show improved KPIs in order to support investment in technology and human resources that give us an advantage in a competitive talent market. Your workforce strategy must focus on how your efforts will not only raise awareness of your talent brand, but specifically meet the needs of each department for successful staffing and retention.

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