Agile workforce planning: A combination of managing data and managing relationships

By Zoe Hruby, Global Head of HR Solutions, Anaplan

The pandemic has revealed how inter-connected the business landscape is. Companies within the same ecosystem are strongly dependant on the success of each other, and so are the various departments and functions across the same organisation. The unpredictable and highly volatile environment caused by Covid-19 has reinforced why managers must think outside the usual scope and re-consider how they work with their cross-functional partners to navigate change and uncertainty – be it adjusting to changes in revenue streams, availability of goods and services in the supply chain, or adapting-planning and finding the right workforce for the current environment. 

Workforce decisions are business decisions

There is no question that employees are central to every business function. Where historically, workforce planning decisions have been passed off as an “HR task”, over the past 18-months we’ve seen a rapid and significant shift in this thinking. Leadership quickly realized that strategic staffing decisions can’t be made in a vacuum and that workforce planning means much more than just headcount and cost planning. Instead, HR leaders need to form strategic partnerships with stakeholders across the organisation to create comprehensive plans around everything, including skills and capabilities, compensation, location, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. But driving this level of engagement and transparency, where any friction between business units and functions can be detrimental, requires a greater capacity to manage both data and relationships.

Strong relationships require communication and visibility

At the foundation lies the relationship between HR and Finance.

Often, finance views the HR planning process in terms of its associated costs. But the connection between HR planning and financial planning is much more nuanced, and the pandemic has proven that working closer together based on shared data is critical to accurately assess the health of a company’s workforce, workplace, and bottom line.

For instance, think about the lorry driver shortage we are seeing today and the impact on HR and finance at haulage companies. For HR this requires a focus on hiring and recruiting as they try to incentivise qualified drivers. At the same time, they are also managing the health of their existing workforce with the ups and downs of the pandemic. For Finance, this means adjusting budgets and forecasts to account for changes in staffing needs and the costs associated with new hires, attrition, sick-time, and retention programs.

If HR and Finance don’t work collaboratively, decisions may be made that prioritize costs in the short term without thinking through long-term headcount needs and employee satisfaction and retention. In the future, these decisions might lead to increased attrition, which would then drive-up costs associated with recruitment and hiring.

Instead, HR and Finance must build a relationship based on their mutual priorities and maintain a shared view of critical data, like attrition data, compensation benchmarks, external talent supply, and recruitment costs, so they can work together to create a comprehensive workforce plan that is both budget-friendly and sustainable. This collaboration and data-visibility will make it easier for HR and Finance to identify the downstream implications of various staffing or recruiting decisions on both the bottom line and the people delivering it.

HR can make the first move

The rapid pace of change means businesses are pushed to make more in-the-moment decisions than ever before. For HR, this requires continuously reviewing and updating workforce plans to reflect the current environment. And since employees play a critical role in every business function, workforce planning decisions – while driven by HR – have a ripple effect across teams and departments.

Because of this, collaboration, transparency of appropriate data, and communication are critical to success, and will help ensure leaders from across the organization – including Finance, HR, Supply Chain, and Sales – are on same page with the workforce needs now and in the future. HR can take the lead here by bridging the gap between functions and business units and making sure there is a shared view of workforce plans and assumptions. This will not only arm each business leader with visibility but will help ensure there is buy-in and alignment around the various scenarios and real-time decisions that need to be made to address volatility or disruption effectively.

Change won’t happen overnight, but by opening the lines of communication and ensuring data is visible and actionable HR leaders can help build relationships that will break down barriers across their organisation. With a new emphasis on partnership and data sharing, HR leaders and their peers across the organization can feel confident that workforce plans not only prioritize the well-being of their people but drive down costs and fuel the innovation needed to deliver ongoing value. 

Author: Editorial Team

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