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Dear Workforce How Do We Tie Workforce Planning to Talent Management

We are implementing a talent management model that includes workforce planning. I am struggling to quantify demand to projections. How do I arrive at a reliable number of future employees?
February 16, 2010
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Related Topics: Strategic Planning, Workforce Planning, Dear Workforce
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Dear Numbers-Challenged:
 
To simplify your challenge, segment the workforce into demand groups that classify workers who perform similar tasks. Some organizations do this by job family, while for others it might be work groups or another indicator. Looking at the correct group makes it much easier to understand future demand.
Still, there is no single way to quantify demand, even when you get the grouping right. Some groups (such as manufacturing or customer support) have very specific business plans that show how many widgets will be produced or calls answered, but most groups do not.
If you lack this level of specificity, think about future demand in terms of the change, rather than an absolute number: “To achieve our strategic goals in three years, we need 25 percent more of this, 50 percent less of that,” and so on.
Remember that you aren't stating a need for 25 percent more people; rather, you are talking about chance in the amount of work done. Just because I need 25 percent more accounting done, for example, doesn't mean I need 25 percent more accountants. In one or more years' time, new technology or processes may have increased productivity, or meant a different capability is needed. A skills shortage may mean that less-skilled people are available. Or the organization might seek to outsource the function or change the design of the work to either mitigate shortages or attract more of a particular group of people, such as parents.
All of these could be valid scenarios for the group, and you must talk to the business units to understand the influences, plans and trends coming into play. The future will usually not repeat the past (which is the problem with projections based only on historical data).
This is not complicated, but workforce planning requires more judgment than math. A targeted conversation with executives will give you much better insight into future demand than any projection. You can look at future changes in all aspects of the work and determine a realistic number of full-time employees—but that's the last, not first, result of your analysis.
A final word: Don't forget supply, including the external labor market. No matter how well you quantify demand, it won't help if the supply isn't there.
SOURCE: Stacy Chapman, Aruspex, Melbourne, Australia, November 21, 2006. Originally published in Dear Workforce on January 4, 2007.
LEARN MORE: Please read a previously published Dear Workforce article that discusses how to tie workforce planning to revenue projections. Also, a workforce planning work sheet is found here.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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