workforce planning tools

Looking to the Future with Workforce Planning

For years, experts have been touting the wisdom of planning ahead. Students plan out their schedules to make sure that they have enough time in the day to study and complete assignments. People anticipating a big purchase or expense put money aside so that, when the time comes, they are able to afford the product or service. A group of people planning a road trip plots out the best route to their destination to make the best time and avoid potential disasters along the way. And businesses prepare for future needs with strategic workforce planning initiatives.
According to a study by Visier Analytics, companies are now hiring faster than they have in years, with the BLS reporting the highest number of job openings than ever before. Visier draws the conclusion that companies are now in “an unprecedented war for talent,” adding that “companies cannot hire fast enough to keep up with their workforce demands.” Meanwhile, 73% of CEOs are concerned that the lack of availability of key skills could threaten their organization’s growth prospects.
In order to stay competitive, companies are no longer able to just take their pick and expect the ideal employee to fall into their laps; they must create plans in order to bring in the best candidates for the job.

What Does Workforce Planning Mean?

The most common workforce planning definition suggests that it is the method that organizations use to systematically identify and analyze precisely what sort of workforce they will need moving forward, taking into account factors such as size, type, quality, and the like. By doing this, each organization is able to decide what qualities are required in each of its employees, whether that be experience, a particular skillset, knowledge in a particular field, or something else. As such, to define workforce planning, each company must first understand its own specific goals.

Defining Your Goals

What do you hope to achieve in the long run? What sort of business do you intend to have in a year? Five years? Ten? Taking the first step and clearly defining your goals can help you retain your focus while developing a workforce planning process. You can start this process by determining which goals are short term (within the next 1–2 years), and which ones are more long term (3–5 years). Be specific with your goals, laying out exactly what you’ll need to do to accomplish them, and the estimated timeframe you’ll need for each. As you do so, you’ll get a clearer picture of which workforce-planning tools you’ll need to help facilitate goal completion. Of course, in order to be able to do so, you’ll need to understand what advantages workforce planning offers.

Benefits of Workforce Planning Software

As your business and associated workforce grow, the planning and management tasks can quickly get out of hand unless you are prepared and have the proper tools in place. The right software solution can automate many of the tedious tasks involved, freeing managers up to focus more on their thought-intensive responsibilities. Listed below are just a few of the benefits the right workforce planning software solution can bring your company:

Measurable Success Factors
Software solutions for workforce planning measure a wide array of metrics and provide hard data that company executives can study to determine what factors are affecting the business. Using this data, they can then work to minimize, if not completely remove, outside influences that are negatively impacting the business’s bottom line, while also refining positive practices to further improve employee efficiency and satisfaction.

Improved Engagement from Employees
Managers can use software tools to achieve the best results possible with their time and employees. By monitoring relevant metrics, they can recognize which segments of the workforce will likely have high turnover, and can prepare to fill holes as they arise. These metrics also provide additional insight into employee efficiency and can help managers to learn how best to maximize the company’s ROI on each employee.

Well-Equipped Leadership
Armed with all this new data, company leaders can plan and make informed decisions about the future of the company. They can also better recognize the best decisions regarding individual employees and solve any personal issues they may be having in a simple and thoughtful manner.

Talent Management and Preparation for Future Needs
As patterns appear in the data, company leaders can use that information to predict future shortfalls in different areas of the workforce. This will allow them to begin recruiting viable talent early so that when the time comes to grow the company, they will be fully prepared.

Selecting a Workforce Planning Solution

While there are several planning solutions available for companies to try, each company’s requirements are different. Here are a few questions to consider as your company selects which workforce planning solution it will implement:

What’s the Cost?
One of the first questions companies ask—and for good reason—is “How much is it going to cost?” Even if a solution is absolutely perfect for the company’s needs, it’s still a net loss if it costs more than the value it brings. Make sure that the solution you choose is affordable while still providing value. Some tool providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing, meaning that you’ll only be charged for the features you use, drastically cutting down on potential spend.

Can Implementation be done easily?
Chances are that your business already has an existing infrastructure for hardware and software solutions, as well as methodologies that keep the business running smoothly. As such, when establishing a workforce-planning model, ask yourself “How well does this solution fit into the systems that are already operating within the company? How big of a headache would it be to fit this solution into the current system? How well does it integrate with third-party applications? Does it allow the company to create its own applications to address the company’s specific needs?” If you can answer yes to these questions, then you may have found the right workforce-planning solution for your organization.

Is it Easy to Use?
Once the hardware and software have been purchased and installed, how easy or intuitive is it to use? Will your employees be able to use it immediately, or does it require extensive training with a steep learning curve? As you increase the number of users on the system or the amount of data it needs to handle, does it scale, or do new problems arise as things become more complex? If your company utilizes multiple platforms, are all of the platforms supported? Does the experience and functionality remain consistent across different devices and platforms, or do things break down if you switch from one to the other? How simple the tool is to adopt will likely play a significant role in whether or not your employees are willing to use it at all.

What are Its Tracking Capabilities?
How comprehensive are the solution’s tracking abilities? Does it allow managers and employees to track data in real time? How difficult is it to access and export that data? Cloud-based workforce planning tools are capable of gathering and analyzing data in real time, giving decision makers the ability to track information instantaneously, rather than having to wait for ‘batches’ of processed data.

Is it Convenient?
In the end, this is what determines whether the investment is worth it. Does the solution make employees’ jobs easier and more efficient? If it does, and if that added convenience loìoks as though it will lead to increased efficiency, reduced spend, and better profits, then the workforce-planning tool in question will be a sound investment.

Planning Now to Excel Later

It’s been said that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Don’t leave your organization’s future to chance; take control with workforce planning. With the right workforce-planning tool in your toolbox, you’ll be able to use concrete, reliable data to make informed decisions, acquire the right talent, and prepare for sustainable growth.

The secret to business success is no secret at all; with workforce planning, you can ensure that your company’s future is resting on reliable shoulders. After all, successful individuals across the globe find that they are at their best when they plan ahead, and with workforce-planning software solutions, your business will too.