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15 Questions To Simplify Workforce Planning

man_paper_face_cropped.jpgOrganizations that rely on a mix of contract, freelance, gig, or permanent employees have a serious problem brewing not knowing how to properly forecast for next year's hiring needs. 

Whether it's due to a lack of resources, a lack of data or a combination of the two, sometimes just knowing what questions to ask is enough to get your company's contingent workforce plan off of the ground. 

In fact, when you boil it down, workforce planning is a process that should be used to align the business goals with the organization's workforce needs. Usually, this is a time to review the following:

  • Lessons learned in the previous year
  • Assess current workforce needs
  • Anticipate demands for the coming year

Despite the reported uncertainty surrounding workforce planning for contingent labor, one thing is constant: businesses will always try to plan for the challenges that lie ahead. And, this includes ebbs and flows in hiring. Time and time again we hear how tools that aid this critical planning are either hastily assembled, or worse, get put on the chopping block -- yikes! 


15 Key Questions To Incorporate in Your Workforce Plan   


It's important to remember that those organizations willing to put in the effort to prepare a comprehensive workforce plan are the ones that will most nimbly maneuver through hiring obstacles.  If the thought of bringing together your HR leaders and practitioners with your business managers and operations team is enough to make you throw in the towel before you even get started, then perhaps you should consider a more holistic approach.

Here are some tried-and-true questions that you can use to get the conversation started.

What did last year look like for your organization?

Review the past nine months for a better understanding of where you are headed. Did you grow or see demand wane? Did you add or subtract headcount? If you saw growth, how can you accelerate that upward trend? If you didn’t, how can you right the ship?


Does your strategic plan match the current reality of your organization?

Take a pragmatic look at your organization and goals. Does your workforce planning align with current and projected business demand? Or are those goals out of sync with where you’re ending the year?


What events could affect your strategic plan?

Consider scenarios in your control, such as a new product launch or planned mergers and acquisitions, as well as events outside your control, such as new legislation or a surging competitor. How would you approach these events?


How will the broader economy affect your organization?

How did your business fare this year? How will it make out if demand slows over the next 12 months? What if it escalates instead?


How did last year change your hiring goals this year?

Are you behind in hiring? Struggling to find qualified candidates? Are you struggling to get a hold of your booming contingent workforce?  Now is the time to take a hard look at how to get back on track or move full steam ahead if your plan has been working. Tapping into a staffing solutions partner is one way to get a fresh perspective on your current workforce strategies and how you might improve them in the following year, whether it’s been working or not.


What will be the biggest obstacles to meeting your goals?

Managing a complex contingent workforce, a shortage of skilled workers, and a complicated hiring process causes headaches for your HR department.  Anticipate your challenges, or there’s a greater chance you’ll miss or delay your goals.


What budget flexibility do you have?

Is your budget set to increase or remain flat? HR departments are used to doing more with less, but knowing how far you can stretch your resources will impact everything from hiring to employee engagement. If maintaining in-house teams isn’t economically feasible, look to vendors and various ways you can outsourcing different HR processes to meet demands without going over budget.


What are you doing to engage employees and keep talent in-house?

Review your current company culture and employee engagement initiatives, from continuing education to opportunities for career advancement, to create an environment mutually beneficial for employees and your organization.


What skills gaps exist in your organization?

Review the positions that have been toughest to fill. Can current workers be trained in the needed skills? If not, what new strategies could you try to ensure your workforce is prepared to address your organization’s needs? Can these gaps be filled with contingent workers?  


What talent will your organization need to reach the next level of your strategic plan?

Do you need to expand your sales force? Hire more engineers? Quickly add dozens of new workers to accelerate a key project? Your company should already be seeking out these new employees if you know that you'll need them next year.


Where will you find the talent you need?

If you’re still relying on job ads, it’s time to rethink your strategy. If you aren’t already developing and nurturing talent pools for the positions that you anticipate you’ll need, get started. One way is to outsource the recruitment process to a firm with a proven track record of successfully and efficiently sourcing skilled workers.


How prepared is your organization for growth?

Are there steps in place—project teams, established strategies, expansion plans, and budgets—that you can deploy right away if your growth accelerates? How will you respond if you suddenly need a dozen more employees?


How will you measure and assess your success?

Maintain an understanding of your goals and how they’re progressing to better train and plan your workforce. Establish key measures of performance, including the ratio of qualified candidates to applicants, time to hire, and employee referrals, to track success or redirect efforts as the year goes on. 


What can you be doing now to ensure you start the year off on the right foot?

Examine this year's accomplishments, compare them to current objectives, and start planning on how to close the gap between the two. You have a number of tools at your disposal to fix your HR needs, but your success depends on your plan for the future.


What role can outsourcing a portion of your HR department play in achieving your goals?

If you are struggling year after year to meet your organization's HR goals, it may be time to consider outsourcing. Most organizations can benefit from an RPO provider, others from a Managed Services Provider, and some can use a little bit of both.  But before you bring your cards to the table, make sure you use these 15 questions to get you started on examining your current workforce plan, That way you you can thoroughly examine your workforce for the best solution that can suit your need. 



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