What is workforce planning? Why is it so critical? And how can workforce planning software help? These are the issues we address in this article.
If you have been in the Information Technology industry, you would have become clearly aware of the changing profile of the kind of employees you need to run your business. The kinds of skills and talents that were adequate even a few years ago would usually have become obsolete by now.
To continue to run your business successfully, you need to visualize the talents you would need tomorrow. This is done by looking at emerging and expected developments in your industry, and identifying the specific talents you would need to cope with these developments.
Then there are the normal requirements for new employees as existing employees retire or leave for other jobs. There are also the requirements of normal growth, assuming no change in existing talents portfolio. You assess these requirements by looking at the age-profile of your workforce, and the historical trends regarding employee turnover and normal growth in workforce strength.
In essence, workforce planning involves analyzing the relevant factors and forecasting future workforce requirements both in terms of talent mix as well as quantitative numbers. In practice, the variety and complexity of the factors that can affect the requirements make workforce-planning exercise a complex exercise that is best done with the help of workforce planning software.
The Workforce Planning Process
Before we can appreciate how workforce planning software helps with the process, we need to get a closer look at the details of workforce planning. We do this below.
HOW ARE THINGS NOW? We start the process by looking at the current situation. In essence, we answer questions like:
- What kinds of skills do we need for our existing business(es)?
- What kinds of skills are available with our existing workforce? Are there any shortages?
- What historical trends are detectable in both talent portfolio mix and growth of the workforce?
HOW WOULD THINGS BE IN FUTURE? Next comes the exercise of visualizing how things would be after five, ten, twenty years into the future (or even longer terms). We seek to answer questions like:
- Based on existing trends, what would be the workforce strength and skills requirements?
- What changes in existing trends can be expected, in such areas as market changes, technology developments, new skill requirements and other areas that will affect workforce composition and strength?
- How would the supply side of workforce skills and numbers look at that time?
The above exercise essentially involves projecting existing trends and then modifying the results for expected changes. The result would be a picture of the workforce needed five/ten/twenty/… years later. This is the demand side.
We also estimate the supply by looking at educational and training facilities available, and other relevant factors such as demography and migration.
HOW CAN WE MEET ANY PROJECTED SHORTFALLS? The exercise so far has given us an idea of what to expect, including what shortfalls in workforce to be expected. Now comes the task of workforce planning which involves more than numbers.
An HR strategy would need to be developed to attract sufficient numbers of required kinds of skills. New compensation policies, and offers of flexible working hours and work at home opportunities, are examples of strategies that can help you to attract and retain the kind of workforce you need.
Workforce Planning Software
You would notice that the planning exercise involves analysis of existing data that can be large in volumes, and projecting future scenarios (involving both projecting existing trends and examining “what if” projections).
The analysis and projections are best done with the help of software that has been tailored to the specific needs of workforce planning. Trying to do these manually is not only error prone but would also prove too limited and time consuming. With workforce planning software, you can project numerous what if scenarios in very little time, and also list out the implications of each scenario in terms of skills and numbers requirements.
Workforce planning software could thus make your planning exercise far more flexible, fast and realistic.