Surviving an Uncertain Market with Strategic Workforce Planning

Sep 20, 2023
Reading time: 6 min
Sharon Rusinowitz
Director of Content Marketing

In a volatile business environment, having an effective workforce planning strategy can make all the difference between surviving and thriving.

Workforce planning can help your organization quickly and accurately assess your needs, making it easy to identify potential issues and take decisive action. Armed with the right data, your team can build sustainable plans to manage your workforce, even in the most uncertain markets.

How Wistia saved time and money on workforce planning


What is Workforce Planning?

Workforce planning is a strategic process that enables organizations to align their workforce with their business objectives. It involves forecasting future workforce needs, identifying any gaps in skills or capabilities, and implementing plans to address those gaps. By conducting a thorough analysis of current and future workforce requirements, companies can make informed decisions about hiring, training, and development.

At its core, workforce planning is about ensuring that the right people are in the right place at the right time. It goes beyond just hiring and retention; it encompasses all aspects of managing an organization's people. A proactive approach to workforce planning positions teams to better respond to changes in the market and ensure that they have the right talent to meet strategic goals.

Benefits of Strategic Workforce Planning in an Uncertain Market

In uncertain markets, workforce planning becomes even more critical. It allows companies to anticipate and mitigate risks, adapt to changing business conditions, and identify opportunities for growth.

Specifically, an effective workforce planning strategy can help your organization stay ahead of the competition, build a resilient and agile workforce, and attract and retain top talent by:

  • Adapting quickly to changing market conditions: Aligning the workforce with emerging opportunities helps stay ahead of industry trends and market demands. This agility positions your team to remain competitive and seize new growth prospects.
  • Enhancing employee engagement and retention: Involving employees in the planning process and addressing their needs and aspirations can foster a positive work environment. This promotes employee satisfaction and loyalty to reduce turnover rates and better attract top talent.

Key Elements of a Successful Workforce Planning Strategy

Developing a successful workforce planning strategy requires careful consideration in the following key areas:

Alignment to your business strategy

First and foremost, you need to align your workforce planning with your overall business strategy. By understanding company goals and objectives, you can identify exactly what you need to achieve those goals. This includes conducting a thorough analysis of current and future workforce needs, identifying any skills gaps, and developing targeted plans to address those gaps.

Keep in mind that while you might not always be able to look internally, developing your existing employees’ skills is more cost-effective than hiring talent, so you should always look for opportunities to upskill before bringing new team members on board. Doing so means you’ll hire more efficiently and your employees will see a future for themselves at the company; it’s a win-win.

How to make it happen:

  • Introduce a review cadence that allows for continuous feedback and frequent assessments of growth and performance. For most teams, a quarterly review cycle is the best way to accomplish this objective.
  • Create a centralized skills database so your company has a single source of data to inform skills programs. This allows you to base decisions on business-wide data and the company roadmap rather than gut feel. It also makes it easier to share skills plans with team leads.
  • Develop career mapping so employees have a clear picture of growth opportunities, including definitions of what it means to level up within the company. You may even earmark employees for leadership positions through succession planning, which prepares internal candidates to fill key roles.

Involvement from stakeholders

Next, you need to ensure involvement from stakeholders at all levels. This includes involving employees in the planning process, seeking their input and feedback, and ensuring transparency throughout the process. Engaging employees in the workforce planning process not only increases their sense of ownership and engagement, but also enables the organization to tap into their valuable insights and ideas.

Fostering a strong sense of connection is also vital for retention, so be sure to regularly talk to your people. During these conversations, make sure they’re aligned on business goals and development plans and that they’re getting the support they need to do their jobs effectively.

How to make it happen:

  • Host frequent all-hands meetings featuring a rotation of department updates, celebrations of new hires and employee milestones, and company announcements.
  • Have an agenda for every 1:1 that focuses on accomplishments, challenges, and areas of focus for the next week.
  • Create opportunities for employees to connect on different levels, for example through cross-team 1:1s (think of it like a virtual coffee), small group meals, and social events (at ChartHop we assign Social Captains to own these quarterly).
  • Train in small groups or with breakouts. Learning together is a shared experience, but also a great opportunity to make connections intentionally. Keeping groups small helps facilitate these connections.
  • Hold a Monthly Manager Forum to encourage these cross-team peers to be a unit.
  • Use technology to enable insights and transparency. We use ChartHop to enable people to understand their teams and collaborate virtually on key actions like org planning. We also automatically push updates like org changes, KPI progress, team shout-outs, birthdays, and anniversaries to dedicated Slack channels.
  • Make onboarding high-touch by assigning new hire buddies, giving a pre-start checklist, and recording dense training material, that way orientation can be about meeting people in addition to learning processes and product information. Be sure to hold 30/60/90 day check-ins as well to keep a pulse on progress.

Ongoing monitoring through data

Lastly, continuously monitoring and evaluating your strategy is the only way to ensure your workforce planning efforts remain aligned with evolving business needs. This involves regularly assessing the effectiveness of workforce plans, measuring progress against objectives, and making adjustments as needed.

Of course this type of monitoring requires data to gain valuable insights into employee performance, productivity, and engagement that inform workforce planning decisions. For example, you can identify which teams or departments are performing well and allocate resources accordingly or pinpoint areas that need additional training or support to improve performance.

Analytics can also help forecast future workforce needs so that your team can plan proactively to avoid any skills gaps that may arise.

How to make it happen:

  • Introduce a people operations platform to centralize all of your people data for more informed and faster decision making. For instance, you can bring data like skills, performance ratings, engagement scores, and tenure into a single place to evaluate the complete picture for each employee.
  • Foster collaboration with access controlled data that allows executives and managers to see relevant data – no more and no less – so they can participate in the planning process.
  • Use a sandbox org chart so you can drag and drop people around the organization to visualize different scenarios, all while bringing in key data points to inform team structure.

Plan for Any Scenario

Strategic workforce planning requires you to consider multiple scenarios, and this type of contingency planning is even more important in an uncertain market.

Fortunately, if you invest your time in proactive workforce planning, you can get ahead of both internal and external forces so that you’re prepared for whatever comes your way with a skilled, satisfied, and engaged workforce that can effectively deliver on your company’s goals.

In fact the right workforce plan will not only see you through a turbulent market, but it will also help your company come out stronger on the other side.

Ready to put these tips into action? Discover how strategic workforce planning with ChartHop helped Wistia save time and money, all while better understanding employees and their needs.

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