Our Workforce Is Our Greatest Asset

“Our Workforce is our greatest asset.”  I think most of us have heard those words, or similar, spoken by the leaders of most businesses.  It is important that they truly believe that.  However, how many of them truly take the necessary steps, both tactically and strategically, to make those words a reality.  To put it another way, how many businesses truly walk the talk?  Is your workforce truly your greatest asset?

Workforce planning is something that fewer than 33% of all US Businesses undertake.  The reasons are many, and they range from they don’t understand it, they have never seen it, or they don’t have anyone on their team who can do it.  Traditionally we may think this is an HR function, but HR has truly dropped the ball on this issue.  While some HR leaders do develop good workforce plans a significant number do not; or in some cases think they have but haven’t.

Workforce planning is simply a strategy that employers use to anticipate and use its workforce effectively.  It recognizes that the workforce is the primary means of growth and value creation in business.  Workforce planning is a critical part of Talent Management.  As Jack Welch states,

“Talent Management deserves as much focus as financial capital management.”

In a big picture view, there are five basic steps to Workforce Planning.  These are:

Step 1: Analyze your talent supply

Step 2: Consider your future needs

Step 3: Identify the gaps

Step 4: Find the solution

Step 5:  Execute

Workforce planning is not without its issues.  If the business lacks the appropriate skills to conduct good workforce planning the following can become a problem:

  • Viewing the process as short-term – Workforce planning is not a short-term project or a one-time It must be viewed as a long-term effort that remains within the business forever.   It must have the commitment from the top leadership on down.
  • Seeing it as only HR’s responsibility –While HR may lead the effort, but the process must be tied to the overall business   That means all business leaders have a role and actively participate.
  • Doing too much too fast –You should start with one part of your business and grow from there.  If you try to do it all at once, the process may become too much and become more than leaders, and the business can manage.   Start small
  • Getting caught up in the data –Data is important and the development of appropriate metrics, much more than turnover, cost per hire, time to recruit, etc. is a critical part.  But focusing too much on the data creates roadblocks that stall or derail workforce planning efforts.
  • Not properly aligning recruiting activity – Too often recruiting e3fforts are a reaction to something; a vacancy, a new product line, etc. Recruiting must be part of a proactive effort to attract the right people at the right time.  Good workforce planning creates this environment.
  • Forgetting current workersYour business already has talent.  Ensuring that your plan affords the opportunity for that talent to be used or developed is a key component.  You must consider and use your existing talent.
  • Inappropriate or no budget – Not only do you need a budget to prepare your plan you also need a budget that develops your internal talent.

Workforce planning takes a skill set the business may not have.  HR must develop the necessary business acumen to effectively lead or participate in workforce planning efforts.  A recent Hay Group Study suggests that only about a third of businesses have effective workforce plans or are engaged in efforts to develop them.  A major reason why the remaining businesses do not or have not is directly tied to the lack of business acumen within the HR function.  Many of these businesses could benefit by using outside resources to help drive their workforce planning efforts and in turn develop the necessary Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, Experiences, and Behaviors (KSAEB) in their existing staff to continue the process long-term.

Good workforce planning sets the groundwork for business success.  Further, it can end the cycle of hiring up and then laying off your workforce which in turn establishes a formidable employment brand and culture for your business.  While it is not something that should be undertaken if the business lacks the necessary KSAEB’s to properly execute the process, the resources to bring in the talent, even if contracted for, are available to make this an important and necessary part of your overall;l business strategy.