By the end of the year, many employers know what their budgets are looking like for the coming months and are getting a better perspective on the expectations of their team. It's the perfect time to start paying attention to the monthly ONS jobs report as part of their strategic workforce planning.
And for good reason: Any signs that might indicate changes in business or economic conditions can help them decide how their workforce should be structured, whether it needs to expand, contract or even change at all.
What is a workforce plan?
Workforce planning is a continual process where companies align their business objectives with their workforce resources to ensure they have the right size and strength of team, plus the right team structure to meet those objectives.
Therefore, assessing your company’s workforce plan begins by answering one question: do you have an adequate number of employees currently in place to achieve your objectives, at least over the near term?
This is much more than a simple yes-or-no question. Here are two scenarios you might possibly be facing:
Scenario #1: You are fully staffed
Even if you feel you already have enough employees to meet your business goals, and your workforce plan is complete, you still have a few more things to consider. And not accounting for them could spell disaster.
More than anything, you need to ask yourself these follow-up questions to ensure your employee resources plan will help move your business forward in the months ahead:
- How quickly can you adjust to unforeseen hiring challenges? Even though you may have enough people on hand to support the plans you’re making, what would happen if business conditions or priorities change? What if a critical team member — or worse, multiple key players — decided to leave the organisation? There are many factors behind why employees leave, and in today’s employment market, that’s well within the realm of possibility.
- Do you have the right skills in the right places? Just because you have the right number of people doesn’t mean you have them focused on the right projects. What are your business goals, and what portion of your team is working to achieve each one? Roughly speaking, in terms of workforce restructuring, the more important the goal, the more people you should have dedicated to meeting it. Prepare yourself now for the possibility that you may need to reallocate members of your team — or bring in new workers if your staff lack key skills to support changed business priorities. By performing this assessment, you may also be able to find ways to move your staff along their desired career paths.
Given these realities, setting aside a portion of yearly budget is worth considering for unplanned hiring needs. Establish a relationship with a reputable specialist recruitment consultant in your area who can help you locate skilled interim professionals should you require project-based consulting or support.
Scenario #2: You plan to hire in the year ahead
If, on the other hand, you don’t have enough people or the right skill sets in-house to achieve your business objectives in the New Year, you’ve got a little more work to do in formulating a workforce plan. In particular, you need to consider several key questions, including:
- How quickly do you need to hire? Skilled candidates are in high demand, and it can take several weeks to find the right hire. If you’re in a geographic location where competition for talent is fierce, it might take even longer. So, you might need to start your candidate search right away, especially if you need to have these additional team members in place by early 2018.
- How quickly can you hire? A key step in setting your workforce plan is making sure all stakeholders understand the hiring priorities and have agreed on key details, such as the number of people you plan to hire, salary expectations, start dates and the like. Start preparing now. Getting these particulars ironed out early on will make the hiring process go more smoothly and increase your chances of success.
- What factors could make it difficult for you to hire? Be aware of anything that could make hiring even more challenging — or near impossible. Start with the employment market in your area. How deep is the pool of candidates you seek? What is the demand for these professionals? How much employee training will they need? Also, think about your job offers. Your company must be prepared to offer remuneration that is at least on par with what competitors and peers are providing to top candidates.
- Should you adjust your priorities? Consider postponing any initiatives that aren’t imperative, at least until you’re confident that your business is truly prepared, from a recruitment perspective, to take them on.
It takes a great deal of thought and effort to pull together a workforce plan, even if you think you don’t need one. It’s worth the work and forms the basis for your recruitment strategies. Really understanding where your business is at today in terms of its employee strength provides a foundation for determining where it needs to be in the near future — and allows for you to withstand the unexpected.
Start your workforce plan now and be prepared for the future
One more thing to keep in mind: Many employers slow their hiring efforts in the fourth quarter, assuming the job is more difficult then and that they can restart the process after the beginning of the year. But it's not a good time to tap the brakes.
There is a shortage of skilled professionals, and those who are looking for employment do not remain available for long. So, if you need to secure in-demand talent for your team — whether it’s to achieve key objectives by the end of the year, embark on new initiatives in the new year, or both — you must continue to move quickly and recruit aggressively. For more information on how to develop your recruitment strategies, efficient workforce restructuring and building a successful workforce, sign up to our hiring and management advice enewsletter.