Sylvia

Written by Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, PageUp Senior Vice President, Research.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

The “War Room” – where once battle strategies, and today business strategies, are formed, tactics devised, and actions monitored. By designating a War Room, a company recognizes that from time to time, it’s necessary to take a step back from the flurry of everyday activity and survey the scene from ten thousand feet. From a holistic standpoint, the company can determine the right direction, pursue the correct strategies and enact appropriate tactics.

In the war for top talent, workforce planning is the War Room of HR. As the cornerstone of strategic human resources, the workforce plan certifies that human capital and talent management strategies run parallel to the business goals. As workforce plans hinge on effective forecasting, analysis and preparation, the failure to craft and implement an effective one will almost certainly deliver an adverse impact to a company’s ability to acquire, inspire and retain talent.

Planning Matters

For multinational corporations hoping to stay relevant and competitive, especially in the vibrant Southeast Asian market, now is the time to build workforce planning capabilities. It takes time to master this strategic function – and the fact is that few organizations are currently proficient planners. In fact, of nearly 700 respondents to our Philippines survey, 95% admit that workforce planning is either business-critical or of high importance, but only 31% claim to be able to execute it effectively. For many, short-term staffing needs due to headcount growth and high turnover rates overwhelm even the best intentions for forward planning and workforce analysis.

Now with the impending integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), organizations in the region need to step up fast to become strategic workforce planners.

Unreliable Data Need Not Apply

If high paced and high growth describe your work environment, your ability to readily access and analyze data is not only essential to assessing the status quo, but it is critical to forecasting future needs. For workforce planning to hit the mark, companies must have access to robust quantitative and qualitative data.

  • Sourced most often from HR information and payroll systems, qualitative data includes workforce demographics (age, gender, location), salaries and benefits, employment tenure, and history of roles and experience.
  • Usually sourced from talent management systems, qualitative data includes competency and performance ratings, training and development history, successional status, mobility preferences, flight-risk ratings and career plans.

This data combination affords insights that cast light on the strengths and weaknesses of a company’s current workforce. It also highlights capability gaps and future leadership bench strength. The challenge for most organizations is that a growing workforce comes with increasingly disparate and complex data that requires a dedicated focus to maintain its integrity and reliability. Even with state-of-the-art HR technology in place to capture, track and mine the data, very few organizations possess the analytical and interpretive skills necessary to transform this into meaningful outputs. Without meaningful outputs, business managers cannot hope to use the information to make strategic workforce decisions.

Practice Makes Perfect

The painful reality is that the evolution of HR has outstripped the expertise of many who are implementing it. Global best practices in workforce planning have advanced considerably, in no small part due to the increased functionality of HR technologies.

Take a look. Workforce dashboards translate thousands of data points into a meaningful picture of the organization’s human capital strengths and weaknesses. Talent Scientists, a new breed of numerically gifted quantitative analysts, can use the detailed information available through their workforce plans to gain full visibility into their workforces around the world.

Whether you are in the Philippines, elsewhere in Southeast Asia or in countries around the world, multinational corporations should follow several workforce planning best practices:

  • Make workforce planning and strategic business planning parallel processes
  • Ensure your leadership values data-driven decision-making and promotes a culture of objective transparency
  • Invest in a sophisticated data engine with analytical tools to generate meaningful workforce information
  • Combine internal, external, structured and social data to produce deep insights into talent availability and shortfalls
  • Hire HR specialists who are adept at data modelling, interpretation and forecasting

What’s going on in your War Room? Workforce planning is the most strategic people management activity to take place within an organization. In an electric business environment, the battle for talent will be won and lost even before the players take to the field. What’s your plan?