Free ResourcesLeadership and Management

Manage Workforce Planning – Defining Roadblocks

Why do you need workforce planning? In today’s talent-based economy, workforce planning is definitely a must-have practice in any company. Yes, while size does matter, small- to large-scale companies will largely benefit from an effective and innovative workforce planning system. This arguably the most important tangible asset of most organizations regardless of industry. Despite its importance, this asset is often not carefully planned, measured or optimized. This means that many organizations are not sufficiently aware of the current or future workforce gaps that will limit execution of business strategy. Yet at the same time, boards of directors, CEOs and chief human resources officers will frequently declare that workforce planning and data- driven decision-making is a top priority for their organizations.

Now, everything must be in sync with one another for any tool to be effective. While it is difficult to understand this apparent gap between intent and execution, the most obvious cause is a lack of consistent objectives regarding the outputs of workforce planning, and a lack of consistent process by which organizations conduct workforce planning and predictive modeling. Organizations need an approach that moves workforce planning from the domain of “futurists,” where only a few people live, to the domain of operational effectiveness, where management is accustomed to spending its time and energy.

This should really come on top of your priority list – if you want to gear up for success; that is. No wonder, workforce planning and management has managed to land on top of the to-do list of HR executives for  many years. The only challenge is that this is also considered as one of the most difficult programs to launch within HR. There most common roadblocks to its effective implementation are the following:

  • Unrealistic Time frame. This can be time-consuming and may not yield exactness in time frame or even results. Many managers are focused on executing current-year results, but workforce planning has typically addressed a longer time frame and doesn’t show immediate gains that can help meet this year’s results.
  • Data integrity concerns are inevitable. There is no perfect system. Everything is bound to go wrong at one point yet you have to make it work out optimally for the best.
  • Lack of Control. Many companies fail to see the bigger picture and then as a result, lack the appropriate action. Some managers have gut feelings and don’t want to reference data without a compelling data story. There is no opportunity to shift this stance until managers experience the actual pain that could have been avoided through workforce planning.
  • Inattention to Detail. You get to see the whole or the sum of its parts but forget the details which also matter. Organizations have a hard time settling on the appropriate level of granularity of workforce planning, or their job taxonomy. It’s generally understood that a workforce plan has to distinguish one type of job from the next, but is it sufficient to look at broad labor categories, narrower job families, individual jobs, or actual skillsets? So many organizations get into self-imposed delays in rolling out their planning program by trying to find the perfect level at which to plan. From a planning perspective, however, if organizations could start by planning out high-level job categories, this is a great start, and may be enough.
  • Lax in Forecasting. Many managers lack the ability to see beyond the “now.” Traditional forecasting methods are poor at predicting the actual individuals at risk for turnover and retirement, and, thus, are not sufficiently actionable.

Roadblocks to workforce planning are real – it’s imminent and can even be debilitating. One must be able to see right through it and know how to manage these effectively. Two recent trends serve to moderate—and sometimes even eliminate—these potential roadblocks. The first is a broad-scale acceptance of data-driven decision-making that is infusing the culture of organizations and making workforce planning inherently more attractive. The second involves recent advances in predictive analytics and modeling technology. These advances provide more compelling near-term actionable information about granular employee-level supply risk, while simultaneously helping with demand-based scenario planning. Coupled together, these trends have a profound ability to move workforce planning from a “nice-to-have” status to a critical program for high-performance organizations. Diagram 1 outlines a workforce planning process that combines end-user-based demand planning with predictive supply analytics.