Understanding workforce planning: insights and best practices

Learn how to upgrade this crucial component of talent management

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

From organizing a party to getting ready for a big trip, most things go better when you plan ahead—and talent management is no exception. Companies that keep tabs on their workforce’s skills and capacity levels are generally best prepared to pivot when demands change or new challenges emerge.

While most organizations are eager to equip leaders with a comprehensive picture of their workforce’s capabilities, 55% of HR managers acknowledge that their jobs and skills information only partially meets their needs.

Rather than settling for subpar insights, visionary organizations are taking their workforce planning efforts to the next level by harnessing skills intelligence tools to identify emerging knowledge gaps and keep a pulse on market trends.

What is workforce planning?

According to Mercer, workforce planning is a systematic process for identifying and adjusting gaps between current and projected future workforce requirements. It involves reviewing current staff, examining existing and future personnel needs, and identifying where supply isn’t aligning with demand.

By pinpointing knowledge gaps, companies can plan effectively to ensure their organization has properly skilled employees in correct roles, which helps support the business in maintaining efficient operations and achieving its goals. With an impactful workforce planning strategy, a business will always be staffed with the necessary talent, knowledge, and experience to produce positive outcomes.

How does workforce planning differ from workforce management?

While workforce planning and workforce management may sound the same, the two terms have distinct meanings. The former is about analyzing the supply and demand of talent to ensure you have the skills and headcount needed, while the latter describes the process of improving the productivity of every employee.

Workforce management involves the creation of schedules and labor forecasts, while workforce planning is more about analyzing which skills are on the rise and on the decline and ensuring your workforce has the knowledge needed to keep pace with shifting market demands.

What are the benefits of workforce planning?

There are 3 main reasons why every HR leader should prioritize workforce planning, including:

Build an efficient staffing model

Now that skills needs are ever-changing and consumer expectations are constantly evolving, leaders must ensure their workforce has talent and skills in the right places at the right time, in the most affordable way possible. With workforce planning, HR teams can ensure they’re prioritizing critical skills, identifying where to upskill internally versus hiring externally, and leveraging gig economies to efficiently deploy qualified talent to the areas of the business that need them most.

Make strategic hiring decisions

While leaders may have once relied primarily on external hiring to bridge skill gaps, tightened budgets and growing talent shortages are motivating employers to take an internal-first approach to talent sourcing. Workforce planning enables leaders to make strategic decisions about when they need to hire externally versus when they might have talent within their organization that can be borrowed or upskilled to move into a high-priority role or project.

Bridge skill gaps and upskill for the future

In today’s talent landscape, no company can afford to sit back and let skill gaps widen. Yet without insight into which skills are on the rise and on the decline, that’s exactly what some leaders are doing. When executives harness skills intelligence tools like Gloat’s Skills Foundation to upgrade their workforce planning approach, they can begin to identify potential knowledge gaps or emerging skill trends before they occur and devise upskilling and L&D plans accordingly.

3 steps to upgrade your approach to workforce planning

If you’re looking to take your workforce planning strategy to the next level, here are a few steps to get started:

#1. Ensure you have a comprehensive view of workforce skills

It’s impossible to effectively plan for future projects and trainings without a comprehensive picture of the skills your organization currently has. Yet, many companies don’t have a 360-degree view of skills because this information is often siloed between multiple disparate HR systems.

Rather than letting a lack of insights hold workforce planning efforts back, visionary organizations are using skills intelligence tools to gain a better understanding of the capabilities their people have, how these competencies stack up against the competition, and the skills they should prioritize next.

#2. See the bigger picture

In a world that moves as quickly as ours, every HR team needs a plan for the future that’s built for change. While taking stock of the skills your organization currently has is an important step in the right direction, the best workforce planning efforts don’t stop there. With the help of skills intelligence tools, leaders can identify emerging knowledge gaps and use built-in job architecture management systems to see how skill needs are shifting and when it’s time to adjust roles and responsibilities accordingly.

#3. Create pathways for continued skill-building

Beyond acquiring skills through external hiring, executives should encourage employees to develop their expertise so they can take on new projects within their organizations. To prevent knowledge gaps from holding people back, HR leaders should devise pathways for experiential learning opportunities that will enable employees to build on-the-job expertise.

By generating suggestions for projects, gigs, and mentorships based on the skill gaps your business needs to close, talent marketplaces increase access to high-priority skills development opportunities.

Want to learn how to harness AI-powered technology to upgrade your workforce planning strategy? Find out more about Skills Foundation.

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