Thursday, June 02, 2005

Workforce planning and best practices

All this talk about talent management. Basically, to dig through the confusion, break it up into 2 components: Talent Acquisition, and Talent Retention. Obviously you can break these 2 areas up to many other sub-functions. Today, I’m talking about workforce planning, something I’ve been building up to for some time.

Workforce planning can also be divided up into several subsets: understanding your current workforce, understanding your future workforce requirements, understanding market supply and demand for employees, and talent strategies to obtain this workforce.

Understanding your current workforce: Basically this is simply knowing who your employees are, where they work, how old they are, and if they have the appropriate skills for today and the future. A factor related to age is when will your employees be retiring. I have spoken with organizations with where the average age of their workforce is in high 40’s. I’d say that if a significant portion of your employee population is retiring in the next 5-10 years, you are at risk. This is due to a large amount of knowledge, skills, and strategic experience with insufficient replacement. If you don’t have replacements, you need to begin thinking about it very soon. If you have a large base that is retiring soon, but you have a large mid-career base, then your strategy will be retaining and transferring knowledge.

Understanding future workforce requirements: This is important because as your business changes, retools production, or automates processes, workforce skills will need to change. However, most of these are long term adjustments you can make. You may also be moving facilities from one city, state or country to another.

Understanding market supply and demand: In the U.S. a large population is about to retire. The mid-career professional is in a shortage situation, but this will not be clearly felt until the baby boomer generation is mid-way through retirement. The supply of younger and unskilled workers is actually exceeding demand for the moment, but this will also turn into a shortage situation as these people enter the mid career market in 15-20 years.

Talent strategies: Between active career pathing, succession planning, and all the other standard talent strategies, organizations must be able to hang on to the talent they have, and attract the talent they don’t. However, organizational communications and work environment shaping are also critical. There has been considerable discussion over the last couple years about “employee engagement.” Studies have shown that certain issues make employees happy: they feel like they contribute, they feel valued, they acre about the success of the organization, etc… Lastly, compensation and benefits may also play a role. From incentives for pre-retirement employees to work longer than planned, to structuring retirement benefits to promote the same, these are critical strategies as increased competition for ever decreasing supply becomes a normal part of the economy.