How do you build a case for workforce planning? Start by working smart.
Take a good, hard look at your business: is your company the one always on the back foot, unable to garner resources in time to make the most of a new market opportunity? Or are you constantly scrambling to fill key staffing gaps, often at a significant cost and not getting the best hires? Are your staff worn down because they’re always doing extra work covering for vacant roles? There’s got to be a better way and robust workforce planning is the first step.
Workforce planning is a strategic process useful for organisations to help them anticipate their future resourcing needs. A Workforce Plan aligns with the business’s strategic plan and lays out the staff numbers, locations, roles and capabilities that will be required to meet it. It also outlines how to attract and recruit the staff which will help the company achieve its medium or long-term goals, as well as how to tap into obvious and hidden pools of internal talent.
Building your business case
If workforce planning sounds like it would add value to your company, you might be keen to get started. However, because workforce planning is not a quick fix and needs to be aligned to the company’s business plan, you will need input and support from senior leaders in your company to make it successful. The first step will be to build a compelling business case to bring key stakeholders on the journey.
A great way to do that is to show some powerful metrics. For example, if the business finds it is taking too long to fill critical open positions, then it is possible to show how this high “time to fill” is adversely impacting the financial results of the company by way of missed revenues. Showing how revenue can be increased can provide a pretty compelling argument.
To calculate missed revenues, start by choosing a few roles where it’s easy to measure the value of 30 days of revenue-generating work (sales roles are often a good option). You can easily look at expected revenue from each sales resource and then extrapolate out the missed revenue by not filling that role. Remember, the value of that 30 days is what you will ‘earn’ by filling that role 30 days faster. Next, determine how many of these roles require filling each year. Multiply this by the 30 days figure to arrive at a hard-to-ignore revenue impact.
Alternatively, you may look at the additional costs you are incurring by not having a proper Workforce Plan, such as the cost of over-using recruitment agencies or search firms to fill jobs. The cost-per-hire difference between you filling a job yourself (via your in-house recruitment team or RPO partner) versus the cost of doing so via a search firm can be large and may be significantly reduced with a robust Workforce Plan tied to the right resourcing plan and model.
Sometimes the cost of turnover can be included in your business case, especially where turnover is caused by a lack of internal career development opportunities, unmanageable workload or the wrong people being hired in the first place, as all of these problems can be addressed by the right Workforce Plan.
Bring key players on the journey
Once the business case is complete, you need to find the most appropriate person to present it to the Executive Team to build their buy-in and support. Typically this is the HRD or CFO. If the business case is done well, then adopting your recommendations should be an easy decision.
Once you have approval and enter the implementation phase, it is absolutely critical that the plan is kept live and relevant by regular contact with senior executives to ensure any changes to strategies are understood and reflected in the Workforce Plan. Without this, HR’s role of ensuring a Workforce Plan matches the future plans of leadership simply isn’t possible. Your CEO also needs to back the process, sending a signal across the business that workforce planning is both essential and valued.
While it is ideal to create a Workforce Plan that is truly company wide as it leverages talent and synergies across the entire business, this may not be possible for businesses embarking on this for the first time. In these instances you may have to focus your energies initially in one business division to prove the concept before expanding the plan and actions across the entire organisation.
If there’s a mantra for those implementing a Workforce Plan, it should be: “do something”. Don’t feel it’s vital to tackle the entire organisation in one go – this can often lead to the conclusion that the process is too hard. Your plan doesn’t need to be 100 per cent perfect, but it does need to provide a practical guide for HR activities that are aligned with your business’s strategic objectives.
Sure, it can feel slow. And yes, you may strike resistance along the way from those wanting instant solutions. But stick with it: the pay-off will come when you have the best talent in the market, exactly where and when you need them, ready to seize every opportunity.