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Why integrated workforce planning is key for business agility in 2021

By Mark Judd, VP, HCM Product Strategy, EMEA at Workday

July 1 2021 - Globally the percentage of remote workers is expected to double in 2021. In fact, 76% of employees say they want to continue to work from home post the pandemic. This raises new challenges for HR teams that have a critical role to play in ensuring their businesses remain competitive and operate with agility. CHROs and their teams have to figure out what changes to where we work will mean for the traditional office space. They also have to anticipate the effect a work-anywhere world will have on workforce efficiency and productivity. And, what impact that in turn may have on talent acquisition, development, and retention.

The question is, where do they even begin when trying to adapt their business processes to the seismic changes happening in the workforce? The answer lies in rapidly adopting new, integrated, workforce planning methods.

Workforce planning cannot be the weak link

In a short period of time, HR has grown from simply being a 'people department' to a core business function that leads on the bigger business goals. Even before the pandemic, Deloitte coined the term, Exponential HR. This term refers to a broader scope of influence for the HR function within the business. To be at their most agile and strategic, companies need workforce planning to give them an overview of the people resources needed to achieve their business needs, thus ensuring resources are put to their best use. And not just focus on traditional metrics such as cost headcount and cost per hire.

Workforce planning will play a huge role in HR’s redefined role. This is because integrated workforce planning involves understanding the key goals and objectives set by leadership and how the workforce needs to be aligned to achieve them. As well as identifying top priority business gaps with the biggest impact on organisational performance to allocate resources too.

Yet, despite the upheavals of the last year, many companies will find their workforce planning environment to be disconnected. This is a big problem and one that has to be solved.

Integrated planning is needed for business agility

Business agility is no longer an option, it’s a critical component of a successful business. And this is why a growing number of CHROs and their teams are adopting an integrated workforce planning approach.

Rather than encumbering HR leaders with siloed and misaligned objectives, integrated workforce planning provides them with the ability to plan their workforce, syncing with all other business plans - finance, forecasts, corporate strategy, operations, and departmental budget. This enables the CHRO and their team to create a comprehensive and dynamic workforce plan in sync with the wider business, ensuring that departments have the critical skills and resources in place to move the company forward and upskilling where necessary to fill any anticipated skills gaps. And, it ultimately helps the HR teams transition from tactical headcount planning to more strategic workforce planning that enables them to provide the right people in the right place at the right time.

The benefits of workforce scenario planning

For companies wanting to be more competitive, agile, and reactive to situations, workforce scenario planning offers a key solution. Scenario planning allows HR professionals to model various ‘what if’ scenarios based on an array of potential outcomes. This enables companies to have multiple contingency plans which are adaptable to the needs of the business. Companies can then match their internal resources to the external environment and allocate resources in a more effective manner.

Workforce planning enables CHROs and their teams to develop scenarios for:

Reskilling and upskilling employees. As working environments adapt and move, and more digital transformations take place affecting the roles of existing workers, HR leaders will need to model the full implications of reskilling or upskilling to address skill gaps.

Remote workforce productivity. The switch to remote working has likely had an effect on employee productivity levels. Scenario planning allows HR leaders to correctly assess and create new benchmarks for business-wide working processes and policies that will enable a smoother transition to working from home.

Build-buy-borrow skills sets. Current and future work needs can be mapped out to assign whether it's more effective to build, buy or borrow the skills necessary to fulfill the company’s needs. Scenario planning thus ensures that HR leaders are investing in creating skill sets that fit in with the overall company objectives.

Employee retention and development. The financial and operational consequences of employee retention and development have become increasingly critical as COVID-19 has stretched company resources. HR leaders need access to data that will show them the right areas to make cuts or investments that will best benefit the company's goals long term. Thus aligning changing organisational needs with people management.

Traditionally, most HR leaders modelled the best, worst, and most likely case scenarios. Modern, integrated planning however provides them with the ability to quickly and easily course-correct and recalibrate a model to see the resulting cost and timing impacts as a measure of plan effectiveness. Furthermore, scenario planning empowers HR to work with actual, real-time data, enabling these business leaders to make the most informed, strategic decision possible.

Planning for your companies future

There is no doubt that integrated workforce planning is a tool that can help companies to harness their full potential, and function with agility. As businesses plan for what’s next after the pandemic, it’s critical that CHROs and their teams are working with real-time data to make accurate decisions about the talent within their company. If not, their businesses risk being left behind.

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