Keys for Successful Workforce Planning


Jason Averbook, a senior partner and global leader of digital HR strategy at Mercer, says effective workforce planning for the new year will require paying careful attention to the needs of the business and aligning those needs with the hiring strategy. Businesses that do so successfully will retain quality talent for much longer.

The current job market is experiencing an unprecedented obstacle: there are more open positions than employees to fill them. As a result, many companies have been left struggling to find staffing — and, once they do hire employees, to retain them long-term. As a result, HR professionals have had to adapt and make significant changes to their workforce planning strategies, including the tools they use to run their businesses.

We are left with a situation where businesses may have to make compromises on their desired employees. Some candidates might have the experience needed to fulfill the job requirements but a degree only partially relevant; others may have the education but less experience in their field.

It is important to remember that the right candidate does not necessarily have to be the perfect candidate. Given the challenges every industry faces at the moment, businesses have had to adapt to fulfill their hiring and employee retention needs using whatever best solutions are available to them. However, the key to successful workforce planning will be figuring out how to satisfy both the business goals and its employee’s needs.

Putting the Employee First in Workforce Planning

While successful workforce planning may manifest in various ways, increased transparency is most apparent. Increased transparency works to the advantage of employers and employees because it more quickly and effectively establishes trust between employee and employers. Trust in the workplace is one of the most critical factors in strong business performance, and openness is the easiest and most effective way to build trust.

For example, all employees need (and should want) a clearer picture of their responsibilities and what is expected of them. Setting clear objectives for employees is a great way to ensure that they have a clear path to success in their positions and a way to feel accomplished for their work. When we can achieve our goals, we feel happy and fulfilled. Likewise, helping employees set and fulfill their goals will boost the overall morale of employees.

Companies should consider goal session tools to help their employees set and keep track of their goals. Many core HR platforms have integrated this functionality.

One thing that businesses often forget about HR is humanity. It’s in the name, after all — human relations. However, in this day and age, when more employees are working from home longer and in more significant numbers than ever before, it can be easy to lose track of the human element when in-person connections are no longer as standard as they once were. Nevertheless, there is inherent connectivity in working online in a digital ecosystem and engaging with employees in this way is necessary.

First and foremost, an employer must show their employees that they care about their employees’ well-being and success. When working in an office environment, managers can stop and talk to employees at the water cooler or pop by their desks to touch base. In a remote or hybrid work environment, this is much more challenging. As such, business leaders must check in on their employees regularly. Have consistent one-on-one meetings, and ask them how they are doing. Something as simple as asking whether they are “red, yellow, or green” can make all the difference in making them feel appreciated.

Performance management tools make it easier for managers to converse with employees, set agendas, track discussions, and check in with employees. Companies can also use employee engagement platforms to complete employee engagement pulse checks to see how they are doing, as well as to help with other employee engagement needs and employee listening.

See More: 3 Steps to Update Your Performance Management Process

In this new future of work, the most successful businesses prioritize relationships — not just with clients but also with employees. When unhappy employees can quickly find another job if they so wish, it’s essential to ensure they feel valued by their employer.

At the same time, leaders must ensure that their employees contribute to the workplace in meaningful and positive ways. To address these issues, take adequate time to recognize employees’ diverse skills. If an employee makes a contribution that is enormously valuable to the company, thank them. Find a way, as a leader, to make them feel valued for their hard work and, in turn, incentivize them to continue performing well.

Recognition software allows employers to recognize their employees for their work through kudos, pats on the back, or monetary rewards.

See More: Make Your Employees Feel Recognized

Why Startups Succeed at Workforce Planning

Businesses could be served by looking at the model startups use to approach their own workplace planning. Startups excel at finding the elusive employees known as “unicorns.” As the name would suggest, these employees are exceedingly uncommon because they somehow match all of the requirements outlined within a job description. While this rarely happens with job candidates, startups often find them more than established companies. 

Several reasons help explain why this is. For one, startups are generally disruptive by nature. In their attempt to enter a crowded market, startups have the capability and the necessity to follow a model that attracts attention. From better-than-average benefits packages to competitive pay, the best employees are drawn by what these budding, growing companies offer. And, of course, there is frequently tremendous opportunity for career advancement in a startup if the company can grow successfully.

Although established companies can’t turn back the clock to their startup phase, they can make themselves more competitive with potential candidates. For instance, clearly show prospective employees that the company has a clear path for growth. If development opportunities only open once every five or six years, employees will begin to feel discouraged and unmotivated.

Talent management tools can help with internal mobility and sharing opportunities and can help remove barriers and find employees with the skills needed for new opportunities within your organization.

Employees also want to see that workplaces are adaptable and flexible regarding their needs. If a workplace begins to stagnate, signs of employee complacency will start to show. To restore employee motivation and engagement, have conversations with employees to determine their needs and desires. Be sure to listen to their feedback, as this will improve your company’s overall culture. 

Furthermore, employers should remain open and flexible to innovative employment models. For example, the gig economy has taken hold in the United States. This work structure offers greater freedom and flexibility for both employees and employers and generally has a quicker turnaround for hiring. If a company has clearly defined, project-based goals, a gig structure could benefit their needs. 

Given that the employee is heavily favored by the current circumstances of the job market, employers must learn to be flexible with their workforce planning strategies and be able to adapt to their employees’ needs. As a leader, remember that the goal of workforce planning is to ensure that the labor needs of the organization are met and that the needs of employees go hand-in-hand with the needs of the business. Those that realize this are most likely to succeed.

Which best practices have you considered to engage quality talent in your organization? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .

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