Mistake #9: Engaging in infrequent or cursory workforce planning

Once you’ve hired the right folks into the right culture that sufficiently engages and excites them, you’ve done good work and your company stands to reap the benefits that come from an engaged group of potential star performers. But part of ensuring that each of your employees can become stars (or at least live up to their full potential) requires that you provide these employees with the tools, training, and support needed to do their current jobs and to prepare them for future jobs, as well. This is a crucial part of fulfilling the implicit and explicit promises made to employees when you hire them into your company:  the chance to grow, be challenged, and develop new skills.

There are many ways to do this and even more ways not to do this. Simply hiring people without the necessary support mechanisms or growth opportunities will cost you both in short-term productivity and long-term retention. Additionally, hiring with only an eye for skill sets you need today without thoughtful consideration for the future will equally cost you in having to manage through later terminations or reductions in force.

The key, as in any HR program or process, is to look at the issue holistically and in the context of your business needs and strategies. What skills do you need now? What skills will you need a year from now? Three years from now? Answering these questions and preparing to meet the challenges they pose is the essence of good workforce planning. 

And once you’ve answered those questions, creating the right performance management systems, employee and leadership development programs, and succession planning processes, will help you to home grow and keep the talent you need to be successful.

As CEO, you are responsible for driving a common understanding amongst your team members about the direction of the company and their expected contribution to its success. But there is more to it then just that. Many companies in their business planning discuss future strategy and set goals but they stop short of driving this conversation down to the next crucial level of skills planning needed to achieve this strategy. This is the essence of workforce planning.

Your HR Leader should take the lead in driving your company workforce planning.  He should facilitate the conversation amongst your executive team about the future skill sets that the company needs to acquire now and in the future. This plan should lay out what skills are needed, in what time frame, for what department and for what gain to ensure that both your recruiting and development resources are wisely spent. 

Workforce planning is not a one-time thing but rather should be undertaken at various regular intervals. In this way, you can track the changes in your organization, whether they are changes in strategy or changes in business conditions, and plan appropriately for how to support those changes. Workforce planning supports not only your development and performance management programs but, indeed, your very hiring plans. Understanding your organization’s future workforce needs, then driving the appropriate planning to either hire or develop these skills, is critical to a company’s success.

Because many companies are not used to this kind of conversation (if they have it at all), they tend to have a very cursory or high-level view of the kinds of skills, talents, knowledge, and behaviors they will need to be successful. This is unfortunate.

There is an adage that states, “Go slow to go fast.” While seemingly a paradox, it means that when we have appropriate planning up front, we are able to perform better and faster in the long term. It’s a call for methodically doing the hard work up front so that the execution will be easier on the back end.

This up front work can take many forms. The basic outline of this work calls for serious exploration by an organization’s Executive Team as to the skills needed to meet future challenges. One way to do this is to create a waterfall chart originating with the mission of the company and flowing down through company strategy, through annual goals and down to the actual organization charts with skill sets required to meet these goals. Only by having a thoughtful conversation about how you’ll meet your goals with your existing talent and what additional talent will be needed will you be better prepared to face your business challenges.

Once you are clear about the kind of talent and skills you’ll need in the future, you have a number of different options to ensure you have those skill sets on-board by the time you need them.

The easiest path people take is to simply attempt to hire for the skill sets at the time they are needed. Unfortunately, by the time most companies realize that they need a certain skill set, it’s too late. They must begin a recruiting process that can be both long and even expensive depending on the skill set needed and its scarcity in the marketplace.

A better solution for the business and one that’s guaranteed to help you retain your employees is to grow your talent in-house via performance management, employee and leadership development, and succession planning.



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