The Future of Workforce Planning

by Scott Guinn, product marketing director for HR solutions, Anaplan

Employee turnover is extremely expensive, costing up to 1.5 to 2 times an employee’s salary, and those numbers are rising. Finding and training a replacement can be an arduous process. In an effort to recruit and retain employees, companies do everything from offer free, chef-cooked lunches to employees to regular retreats in fun locations—particularly in industries where the demand for talent is acute.

Workplace planning

Glamorous and exciting perks are certainly useful tools, but studies have shown that these types of perks are not actually what employees want. Rather, employees seek out jobs they are passionate about, where they feel like they are learning, using their skills, and making an impact. They also crave flexibility, autonomy, and recognition of their work. Research from BambooHR found that employee recognition is the top factor when motivating employees in the workplace.

One of the best investments organizations can make toward the satisfaction of their employees is in workforce planning technology and process improvements. Workforce planning examines the entire employee lifecycle and determines how to best recruit, grow, deploy, optimize, and retain employees. When an employee is not the right fit for a job, sees no opportunities for advancement, or feels they are not being fairly compensated, they are far more likely to leave. Workforce planning minimizes the likelihood that employees, teams, and organizations will have their needs unmet.

Let’s look, for example, at an employee named Leslie. Her manager needs to keep track of how much Leslie gets paid, the market rate for people in her position, when her last raise and promotion was, how her role fits into corporate goals, where her skills are most valuable, what training programs will enhance her skillset, and more.

That’s a lot of information to keep track of for just one employee. A leader with five, 10, or even 20 people on their team is faced with the monumental task of managing all these moving parts. If they don’t have the information they need or the tools, things can quickly fall through the cracks, leaving employees unsatisfied.

For many organizations, spreadsheets have traditionally been the go-to way to keep track of all the moving parts and stay connected to what’s going on. Workforce planning was a fairly manual, laborious process, which cut down on the time and energy managers could dedicate to more higher-level concerns. Thanks to cloud services for data analytics, scenario planning, and predictive technologies, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Modern workforce planning tools aggregate data about relevant employee attributes and figure out what needs to happen for everyone to perform at their best. Answering questions—like who needs a raise or who in my organization is available that possesses those skills that I need for a new project or role—can help proactively identify employees who, feeling under-utilized or under compensated, may start looking for work elsewhere, and enable leaders to act accordingly. In addition, the future of workforce planning involves 3D modeling. This technology helps managers make decisions based on scenarios. For example, how will growing a team affect the bottom line? What skills do we most need to hire for? Which training programs will have the biggest impact on retention?

Just as workforce planning can reveal what promotes retention, so can it reveal which measures don’t make much of a difference. It can correlate variables, like a specific type of benefit, to impact. This makes it easier for managers to separate the things that actually matter from white noise, and then focus on the steps that promote the performance of their team. It also connects workforce initiatives to strategic objectives. Consider hourly workers at a hotel. Workforce planning allows a manager to optimize around how many staff members are needed to keep the line at the front desk from getting too long and promote customer satisfaction.

The future of workforce planning will enable managers to be proactive rather than reactive. Technology will allow them to anticipate the needs of their employees to keep them performing as productively and happily as possible. Setting every employee up for success shouldn’t involve combing connected spreadsheets for errors.

The most effective workforce planning solutions are those that can provide a holistic, connected, and real-time view of data about the employee, so that every decision is made with context. That data would include current role, hire date, time in current position, current compensation, time since last raise, performance ratings, training attained, skills, current projects assigned to, succession plan target, and career path plans.

Brought together, and benchmarked against internal and external data sources, this contextual view of their employees enables leaders to proactively make more informed people decisions and track their effectiveness.

Scott Guinn is the product marketing director for HR solutions at Anaplan, and a seasoned enterprise software product, program, and marketing leader specializing in enterprise performance management. Prior to Anaplan, Scott covered HR, Finance, and e-commerce platforms markets as a Research Director for IDC. Prior to that, he held various positions at PeopleSoft and Oracle in both FP&A and marketing disciplines, and as a strategic planning analyst at E&J Gallo. Scott is a former Navy pilot.

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