Sharon Taylor - Sep 4, 2020

Eight Steps to Inspire an Agile Approach to Workforce Planning

“Workforce planning” may feel like a bit of an oxymoron in 2020 as work has been turned on its head and sticking to any sort of plan has become increasingly difficult. For organisations that want to do more than react to current challenges, it’s essential to have a strategy to:

- Identify how you need and want your workforce to evolve
- Create a succession pipeline for team members
- Determine critical skills and functions for the future of your organisation
- Build a plan for employee skill development and career pathing

The actions that you take today to support the growth of your staff will be instrumental in ensuring that your business continues to operate and thrive in the future. What may look a bit different, however, is the way you approach workforce planning.

History has shown us that companies that are slow to adapt—or worse, fail to do so—are quickly left behind. The pandemic has only increased the speed of transformation, which means it’s more important than ever that you begin to use an agile approach to planning.

As you assess the future of your workforce, I encourage Human Resources and Learning & Development teams to consider the following:

1. Revisit Your Organisation’s Business Plan – Often

While many leaders are focused on navigating present challenges, it is important to prioritise building a proactive path forward. Of particular interest to workforce planning is an understanding of:

  • What evolutions in your workforce are necessary to your organisation?
  • What transformations and developments could support your company’s growth?
  • Where is there still grey area in advancing your workforce?

These insights can help you focus programs based on what is known and outline a path for the unknown. Revisit the business plan regularly so you can adjust course, create concrete programming as the unknowns become clearer and design contingency plans as more possibilities unfold.

2. Realign on Talent and Skills Needs

After reviewing the business plan and understanding your company’s path forward, I invite you to consider what that vision means in terms of the skillsets and talents your organisation will need. Take time to meet with stakeholders from across the company and conduct outside research to reach alignment on professional development needs.

I also recommend that you determine the urgency of each skillset to prioritise Learning & Development initiatives as well as potential outside recruiting programs. Connect regularly with stakeholders, in conjunction with a business plan review, to ensure the talent development programs you provide to staff remain relevant to your company’s growth.

3. Focus on Skills, Not Job Roles

“Other duties as assigned” can take on a whole new meaning with this recommendation. Increasingly, employees are being asked to take part in work that extends beyond their job description. In doing so, staff develop new skills and your company can work with greater agility by matching talent with business needs.

You may consider surveying employees to get a better understanding of the skills they feel they bring to the company as well as any under-utilised gifts. You can also review performance management data to determine what untapped potential may existing within your staff.

4. Encourage Talent Mobility

Related to the idea of focusing on skills, not job roles, is talent mobility. In the past, some teams may have been more territorial about their employees’ time and resource-sharing. Agile companies appreciate what talent mobility can do in terms of moving priority projects forward and engaging staff.

A talent mobility mindset can empower employees to use their strengths, have an opportunity to challenge themselves and develop valuable new skills. Promote job shadowing, rotational programs and professional development training to help your company fill gaps as well as build the talents needed for a successful future.

5. Pilot Initiatives for Quick Feedback

As you seek to fill gaps in your business’s current state and future goals, I encourage you to take an agile approach to solicit feedback. Use small groups to test your programs and get real-time insights from participants. Identify short-term Key Performance Indicators – in addition to longer-term ones – to assess the effectiveness of your initiatives. With the data you gather, you can determine if it’s appropriate to expand, adapt or scrap the program.

By aiming for your minimal viable product, making changes as needed and scaling the initiative across your company, you can quickly deploy meaningful professional development to staff.

6. Promote Learning for All

To support continuous improvement, it’s important that employees take ownership of their learning to help your organisation fill gaps, take advantage of possibilities and support their own futures.

Provide opportunities for all team members to engage in professional development programs around foundational skills that will be required for organisational success. In addition to your internal initiatives, I invite you to institute policies and practices that encourage employees to take time out of their workday to attend webinars, conferences or classes to expand their skillsets.

7. Connect Work to Your Company’s Vision

While the specific actions and talents of your employees may regularly evolve, your company’s mission and vision should remain a long-term guidepost. By aligning staff on these tenets, you can promote a more agile approach to work.

When team members understand the long-term objectives and feel a meaningful connection to their organisation’s vision, their mindsets can shift. Rather than focus on what may be in their job description, team members feel more empowered to continually adapt their work to align with the core goals of the company.

8. Reminder: Review Your Plans Regularly

You may have noticed a theme of “reviewing” and “revisiting” throughout these recommendations, and it is important enough to state on its own.

While it’s an active time in business, the fact that things are changing quickly and often highlights the importance of staying up to date with your company’s business plan, goals, vision and stakeholders to properly align your programs.

The state of the world has certainly thrown a wrench into many long-term strategies, and it doesn’t mean that we can or should abandon workforce planning. As you envision the future of your organisation, approaching your plan with agility can put your company – and employees – in the best position to support business recovery and long-term success.

Are skills like leadership, creativity, innovation, problem solving and resiliency an essential part of your business’s future? Fill out the form below to connect with the Emergenetics® team today and learn how we can support your work.

Written by Sharon Taylor