Understanding the breadth and depth of the workforce you need to successfully meet business objectives is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. There are often gaps and mismatches between the workforce you need tomorrow and the one you have today, and it can result in frustrating misalignments in the levels of staff, skills, budgets, and more.
Strategic workforce planning is an essential element in ensuring your business has the right talent and enough staff to run your business effectively. Good planning involves a thorough workforce gap analysis that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of your current workforce and the steps necessary to prepare for future workforce needs. Because change can happen at any time, it also gives you the ability to quickly adapt to, or stay ahead of new, and sometimes unforeseen, circumstances.
Here’s a look at the challenges of today’s labor market and how they relate to some of the most common workforce misalignments. We’ll also talk about the value of workforce planning and how it can reduce, and even prevent, misalignments.
The Challenges of Today’s Workforce
The volatility of the current labor market has made headlines recently. On one hand, well over 4 million United States (U.S.) workers voluntarily left their jobs in August 2021. On the other hand, the national unemployment rate fell to 4.6% in October, with job gains in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing.
As some workers grapple with reprioritizing life and work and others eagerly accept jobs as more companies ramp up hiring, it can feel like whiplash, especially if your business is in an industry where some of the biggest and fastest changes have occurred. It’s hard to know with any certainty if you will have enough employees just to maintain normal operations, let alone be able to hire new employees with the right skills.
In fact, uncertainty is a big component of workforce misalignments, such as the following:
Too much or not enough staff in the short term and no way to know what you’ll need in the long term to scale appropriately.
Too many or not enough junior-, mid-, or senior-level employees.
Inability to determine which positions are critical to hiring for today in case budget cuts or other issues prevent future hiring.
A business plan and budget that doesn’t account for future workforce needs.
The sudden requirement of new skills and competencies that existing employees don’t yet have.
No clear answer about whether to fill workforce skills gaps by hiring contractors or investing in more on-the-job training and education programs for full-time employees.
Even during a less-volatile employment climate, it’s easy for misalignments to occur since the business landscape is inherently prone to change. Evolving market trends and the pressure to stay competitive create ripple effects. While you might be able to solve immediate staffing shortages to answer the most pressing needs, sometimes those decisions can inadvertently create other challenges down the road.
But there is a way to create more predictability and re-align your workforce to your business goals.
How Workforce Planning Can Address These Issues
Strategic workforce planning can benefit your organization by helping you make smarter and more cost-effective decisions about your workforce that stay aligned to business objectives. On a practical level, it can help you clearly visualize the current state of your workforce, forecast future workforce needs with more accuracy, and develop a budget and strategy to accommodate those needs.
With a workforce planning system that centralizes and stores real-time data about your workforce, you can:
Identify the level of junior-, mid-, and senior-level staff you need to meet goals and navigate change utilizing current data and what-if scenarios.
Identify the critical skills workers need today, the ones they’ll need tomorrow, and where there may be surpluses or shortages of skills among current workers.
Establish a benchmark of the current performance of your workforce and the level of training or development needed to make up for any skills gaps or weaknesses.
Know when and where to transition existing employees into new roles, when and where to hire new employees or contractors, and when and where creating whole new teams may be necessary.
Justify and allocate budget to cover new hires, internal promotions, and training, and reallocate budget appropriately after attrition or retirement.
When managers and other leaders across the organization have access to workforce information, the organization is better equipped to make better recruiting, training, and development decisions that reduce and prevent misalignments while adhering to the forward-looking vision of the business.
Plan Today, Reap the Rewards Tomorrow
Workforce planning isn’t just about aligning to current business goals. It also allows your business to seize upon sudden new opportunities that can give it a competitive edge. With proper staffing, it’s much easier to pivot quickly and capitalize on an important moment, such as developing a new product or service offering that would allow you to leapfrog over your biggest competitors.
No matter what challenges or opportunities tomorrow brings or the goals you’re working toward today, strategic workforce planning ensures you have the right employees with the right skills to respond effectively.
To learn more about how you can plan, operationalize, and measure your workforce to align with business objectives and stay competitive, read our recent white paper.
To learn more about how SyncHR can support you with efficient, accurate, and cost-effective workforce management solutions, click here.
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