How to Use Strategic Workforce Planning to Succeed

Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have successfully made it through 2020! And, oh what a year it was! So, now that we are through January 2021, the big question is will this year be better than last, and what does it hold in store for us?Because no one has a crystal ball, it is best to prepare for whatever the new year brings, and part of that preparedness is looking ahead to what 2021 could be and make decisions on realistic goals and strategic objectives for the year.

Planning is not a four-letter word

Ideally, a strategic plan or outline is in place for what you need to accomplish as an organization this year. Review the plan again to ensure it is still applicable moving into 2021. Your organization’s leadership should own this process and review the plan quarterly at a minimum. It is easier to make small course corrections early than major course corrections later, so the plan should be evaluated and tweaked as needed.One of the critical factors to consider as you look at strategic plans for the year involves your organization's work in these areas and who is doing that work. As you assess your strategic plan for the year, pay particular attention to the staffing of key positions crucial to accomplishing each of the plan's elements.

The right people are the essential component

Let’s review five questions to keep in mind when looking at the workforce planning and staffing segment of your strategic plan:

  1. Do you have the right people with the right skillsets and experience in the right positions to perform the required work for the strategic plan to be successfully implemented?
  2. If not, what are you doing right now to reconcile this situation?
  3. Is there a new initiative that is part of the strategic plan you need to staff? If so, what are you doing to put the right person into this role?
  4. You should review your staffing plan to determine who may be at risk of leaving their position in the next year. The reasons could include retirement, promotion, relocating, or taking a position with another organization. If any of these individuals are in mission-critical positions, you should be planning right now how to fill that position when it becomes vacant. Is there a ready replacement for the role that could be moved into the role quickly?
  5. If not, is there someone who could become ready in a short timeframe? And if so, what training or development will they need and who will deliver it to them?

There are many options, choices, and alternatives

If your organization has no ‘ready now’ or ‘ready future’ replacements available, you need to be thinking right now about how you will fill the role. Is there anyone in the organization who could take the role and be trained with a developmental assignment to prepare them for the role when it becomes open?Could you hire a seasoned, experienced interim placement to take the role until you recruit a successor? Senior-level interim employees often serve a much-needed function to ‘hold down the fort’ and perform until you hire the successor. An interim employee would also help train the new hire.An interim employee can serve for a couple of months up to a year or more, depending on your organization's circumstances and need. Some executive search firms will place an interim in the role while they recruit the full-time replacement. If done in tandem, the executive search firm will offer reduced fees for both the interim and the retained search.Your strategic plan should be a ‘living’ document you regularly reference to determine if your organization is on track to achieve its stated goals by the end of the year. Ongoing workforce planning is a vital part of this process.

Failure to plan may be planning to fail

Strategic planning is all about having a clear vision, making realistic plans, having options, being flexible in making changes as needed, and staying focused on the vital tasks. And most importantly, having the right people in place to execute and implement the plans.2021 will be an exciting and challenging year, and with the proper planning and embedded flexibility, your organization will achieve its strategic initiatives.

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