Workforce Planning in a Post-COVID World

Many business practices are changing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. One of them is workforce planning. Building a workforce that allows an organization to execute on its mission over time is a complex process. Add in realities created by COVID and you have a new talent management challenge. It’s all the more reason to invest time now to understand how workforce planning may change in a post-COVID world.

The Two Types of Workforce Planning

Workforce planning is done in two ways: top-down and bottom-up. One focuses on short-term requirements, and other on predicted, long-term needs.

Headcount Planning

The goal of headcount planning is to ensure that the organization has the human resources to meet its strategic goals within budget. Also called ‘org charting’, headcount planning is a top-down exercise conducted by a leadership team of executives, HR, finance, and departmental heads. It is usually done on an annual basis.

There are several steps in this iterative process:

Step 1: Examine your current workforce. Chart all employees at all levels. Determine who may be leaving or promoted within the next 12 months. Similarly, account for open vacancies that will be filled in the near term. Understand the workload across all teams, too.

Step 2: Set your organizational objectives. Look at the strategic plan for the next year and determine how this will impact staffing. For instance, if the company will expand into a new market, you might require new hires with the relevant skills.

Step 3: Identify your hiring needs. If you have done a thorough job in Steps 1 and 2, and you have high-quality data, you will be able to see the workforce gaps. Then, determine which positions the organization should recruit for and those estimated costs. Track this against your budget to plan who and when to hire.

Headcount planning and budgeting

Strategic Workforce Planning

This kind of planning shifts the focus to long-term thinking -- typically two to five years out. It involves developing different scenarios and predicting the talent needs of tomorrow. Strategic workforce planning covers these steps:

Step 1: Define your current workforce. This goes deeper than Step 1 in Headcount Planning. Here, examine how and where current employees might want to move within the organization during the planning time frame. Map skills and look at opportunities for internal mobility. This can be supported by individual career development roadmaps and managers’ input.

Step 2: Analyze the requirements. Forecast the talent needs in the long-term as determined by various scenarios that your organization chooses. For example, if a business unit plans to automate functions now being done by employees, it might require fewer workers. Or if a company anticipates regulatory changes, it might need to add staff or retrain existing staff to continue operating.

Step 3: Do a gap analysis. Now that you understand the current workforce and potential talent requirements for the future, conduct a gap analysis. This exercise will point out the numbers of and skill sets required for your company’s future workforce.

Step 4: Formulate solutions and costs. Look at how the needs for your future workforce can be met over the time frame of your workforce plan. For starters, examine company policies for training, development and internal mobility. As needs arise to open up new positions, can existing employees be reskilled to fill them? Are there succession plans to replace senior leadership going into retirement? Does the organization prefer to hire externally for some roles? Also consider the feasibility of working with external partners to supply the talent needed to meet your business goals.

Finally, planning for long-term cost development is key. Based on the solutions you have outlined, examine how much your overall HR budget will need to increase year by year and plot this out.

Strategic workforce planning might be long-term, but it still requires frequent updating based on changing organizational goals or shifting external conditions.

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How Will COVID Change Your Workforce Planning?

In an unpredictable environment, like the one we are experiencing now, most organizations need to revisit their previously forecasted workforce needs. Workforce planning becomes even more challenging as the level of uncertainty grows.

So, how will your planning be affected by COVID? Here are the most likely areas of impact -- and the ones every organization should be addressing now:

  • Office space. The most obvious change for many companies is a growing remote workforce and a falling demand for physical offices. It may be time to recalculate your space needs and related cost forecasts.
  • Resources for remote workers. Some of the cost savings from office space may need to be re-channeled into new resources and benefits for your remote-first workforce. These could be, for example, equipment upgrades or allowances to offset higher utility costs and rents for home-based employees.
  • Changes in hiring. This is a double-edged sword for many organizations, and its impact depends on the type of talent you need. One the one hand, remote working enables your company to hire from a much broader pool. On the other, it makes the competition for top skills even fiercer. Consider the potential costs (or savings) from hiring employees who can be located anywhere.
  • Flexibility to fill skills gaps. With remote working the norm and a growing supply of contingent workers, your organization now has more options to cover skills gaps beyond traditional employment. Review the costs and benefits of outsourcing and hiring contract employees to cover the predicted workload.

Good workforce planning requires reliable HR analytics. The more complete and accessible your workforce data is, the better your organization can use it to make important decisions. Crunchr Strategic Planning supports you through the process -- from analyzing your current workforce through to developing an action plan.

Crunchr uses your HR data to let you forecast headcount and costs, predict workforce demand, and do skills gap analysis. Our powerful predictive analytics enables your organization to see the impact of your workforce decisions and help you plan your workforce for the future.

 

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