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Why workforce planning is important in 2021

With business goals and objectives shifting more rapidly than ever before HR professionals are faced with managing a constantly changing workforce, making talent management and the workforce planning process highly challenging. However, it is a necessity and arguably more crucial now than ever.

How to achieve workforce planning in today’s economic climate

While difficult times are still ahead, much of the foundations of workforce planning remain the same, though agility is certainly now more important than ever before. As we mentioned in our ‘Beginner’s guide to workforce planning’, there are three key steps to implement:

  1. Understand the basics: Keep it simple. Build a basic outline of the knowledge and skills available, where they are deployed, how and by who, will help to build a longer-term action plan for strategic staffing decisions.
  2. Translate business plans into talent needs: Truly effective workforce planning needs to be aligned with the business strategy. Without this connection, talent managers and human resources offices will constantly be playing ‘catch up’ with the company’s talent needs rather than proactively supporting the company (through no fault of their own, I hasten to add). While it may be hard in a COVID-hit environment to fully define what people needs will arise in the future, the first step should identify any gaps which will need to be filled. Knowing what objectives the business is working towards on an on-going basis will help HR teams build a more realistic talent inventory that pinpoints where resources can be engaged, both internally and externally. A holistic approach that combines the right mix between perm, contingent and now increasingly the automation of tasks will be essential to matching business and talent plans in the most strategic and efficient way.
  3. Close the gaps: Once you have a clear skills inventory and a definition of the talent needs for current and future business plans, it is important to take action to close the gaps you’ve identified. There are a number of ways to achieve this, but a Managed Services Provider (MSP) will have the resources to help you build a flexible and agile external workforce that can deliver against your organisation’s needs. Perhaps more crucially, though, they will have the knowledge and connections to help streamline costs across your talent supply chain, so a conversation with an MSP is certainly worth considering.

The importance of workforce planning

As we have seen despite the uncertainty, planning is possible and necessary to meet today’s objectives.

Without a strategic review of workforce plans, it is impossible to drive efficiency. There needs to be a clear and thorough assessment of where processes have perhaps inadvertently adopted bad practices and where improvements can be made to streamline talent resources.

In a volatile market, a flexible workforce plan is key. Having the right systems in place – including the tools to collate, assess and feed predictive analytics into workforce solutions – will help HR teams swiftly adapt where needed.

Planning for future success

Of course, this sounds relatively simple on paper, but actioning it isn’t as quick and easy as just following the steps outlined above. It requires constant tweaking, re-evaluation and monitoring as well. More information on accomplishing your business’s goals through attracting the right talent can be found in our 'Advanced guide to workforce planning'. And with digital transformation a key driver of future-proof companies, ensuring you are using the best tech tools is also key – although that’s a whole other article in itself!

Although we may not know what lies ahead, we can learn from the past. In the last 12 months, the value of a strategic (and agile) workforce plan has certainly become apparent. For many firms, future success now lies in developing a strategy that underpins the company’s goals now and in the long-term.

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