Developing lasting adaptability: shifting from short-term to long-term workforce planning
Brian Salkowski

5 minutes

Developing lasting adaptability: shifting from short-term to long-term workforce planning

The importance of talent is something that employers always highlight, pledging to provide long-term support and opportunity, to make sure they get the best performance from both existing and new employees. 

However, the reality may be quite different. 

Many businesses still take a reactive, ad hoc approach to their workforce management, taking on new staff to suit immediate, short-term needs and reducing the workforce when demand is lower, instead of planning strategically for the future. 

We have seen this in the technology sector after the pandemic, for example, with quick hiring followed by massive layoffs in a short time. 

Comparing it to a competitive spin class, these organizations can be influenced by group thinking, changing up or down the gears when they worry about being left behind by competitors. 

This is a cycle we have witnessed over many decades, through the dotcom rise and fall, the financial crisis, and Covid. 

Not long ago, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the Great Resignation trend was high – as workers looked for new or better jobs. Companies were struggling to fill their positions and were giving out some very generous financial deals and benefits. 

Today, the mood has shifted, with US resignation rates now at pre-pandemic levels and fewer wild salary increases. Instead, major corporates such as UBS and Amazon have laid off thousands of workers. 

Companies keep making this mistake of poor long-term planning despite some profound consequences. 

These include the cost of sourcing and onboarding new staff, associated training and then exit packages. The possibility of another layoff period somewhere in the future can also create a feeling of mass insecurity in the workforce. Employees can get uneasy and start looking at alternatives, affecting productivity. Your employer brand can be damaged. 

Companies need to move to a more proactive, strategic workforce plan with talent at their center. One that can be sustainable, regardless of the economic cycle or marketplace challenges, and lead to long-term success, without compromising on speed and agility. 

This begins with companies identifying the core talent needed for their business both today and tomorrow. What tasks will stay the same? How could they change and be affected by the introduction of recent technology such as AI? 

In addition, how can businesses supplement that core workforce? What subject matter expertise needs to stay in-house and what can be sourced or hired elsewhere from non-permanent, freelance, or contingent workers? What services could be outsourced, and which roles could be done remotely, off-shore or near-shore? 

It’s about identifying what is core talent, what is non-core, what can be bought and what can be built. It’s a multi-functional approach combining long-term business and sales forecasting, listening to the voice of the customer in terms of where the market is going and then matching that with your skills taxonomy. If you are forecasting a 10% future sales increase, then how does that translate into products and services? How and where will you find the skills and the staff to deliver that? 

There are already some examples of good, well-planned strategic workforce plans in the marketplace, but they are mostly limited to individual business units or departments rather than whole organizations. 

One of the biggest reasons companies do not do it is because it is hard. A large organization may have tens of thousands of global employees so creating a holistic plan takes a lot of time, effort, and resources. 

However, companies must act now, or risk being left behind. 

We are in a period of significant business uncertainty with ongoing concerns over inflation, recession, and geopolitics. Employee expectations have also changed after Covid with a demand for more flexible working options and contract roles. 

Some sectors are also increasingly challenged by changing demographics and skill shortages. The US utility sector, for example, has seen many skilled engineers retire and not be replaced by a new generation. Taking a long-term view of these workforce dynamics and skills therefore becomes even more of a business necessity. 

The driver of this change in a business must be the C-suite, but the detailed forecasting and work planning must come from individual departments and business unit leaders. It must be from the bottom-up – one step at a time. 

Companies can put together their own in-house team to do this work, but engaging a partner such as Guidant Global can add real value in expertise and specialization. We can take an unbiased look without getting bogged down in day-to-day tasks, and use our knowledge, network of specialist providers and forecasting/modelling technology to add substance to a workforce strategy. 

We recently worked with a US company who did a lot of government outsourcing work before the pandemic. When Covid hit, it saw the opportunity to carry out new services such as vaccination promotion and contract tracing. 

We worked with this organization on a new workforce plan identifying what short - and long-term skills it would need. We looked at existing in-house staff, direct hires and what benefits contractors and service providers could bring. The organization tripled its workforce and won several contracts. 

It was a win-win for all parties, including those newly hired employees. 

That is because a strategic workforce plan gives not just employers but workers more clarity. If they are full-time, they can see a long-term future, and if they are a six-month contractor, again, they know where they stand from one project to another. 

It is a more respectful and profitable way of managing your workforce. It is about putting an arm and a plan around your talent for the long-term. 

Implementing a new MSP system to enable a more strategic approach 

If you’re looking to take a more long-term solution to workforce planning, saving both time and money for your organization, take a look at our detailed guide with a roadmap for you to successfully implement an MSP program. 

Advanced guide to workforce planning 

Download our strategic workforce planning guide now to discover how strategic workforce planning is essential in our rapidly changing economy, the changing role of MSP and RPO, the building blocks of advanced workforce planning and how data-led analytics are the key to long-term success. 

If you would like further support in defining your overall talent needs and implementing strategic workforce planning to close your skills gaps, we are here to help! Get in touch to request a resource planning workshop. 

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