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The 8 Most Common Workforce Planning Pitfalls to Avoid

Workforce Planning Pitfalls

Getting Workforce Planning right requires a smart balance of technology tools, scenario planning, advanced analytics and strategic insight.

First and foremost, for Workforce Planning to achieve its purpose, the CHRO/VP of HR either needs to have a seat at the strategy table or be kept informed about important business initiatives at their inception. Executive leadership knows where it wants to grow the business; the CHRO must be perceived as a chief ally in carrying this out.

The goal is to align long-term workforce needs with long-term strategic goals. Senior business leaders typically develop three-year strategic plans; HR and Talent Acquisition need to forecast workforce demands against this projection, identify challenges and ensure that needs are met. Since strategic plans are not static, this process must be dynamic. The evaluation of skill sets in relation to growth initiatives must be continuous.

The 8 Most Common Workforce Planning Pitfalls to Avoid

1. Lack of Commitment – This is not a short-term exercise or one-time event. It’s important to secure the appropriate commitment from the CEO, the business line leaders and the Workforce Planning Team.

2. Going Too Junior – You won’t reach the desired outcome if the Workforce Planning Team consists of junior people. Senior leaders must drive the initiative forward and flag changes in business strategy to alert Talent Acquisition of possible workforce consequences.

3. It’s an “HR Problem” – The CHRO often spearheads Workforce Planning and is a key player, but the business must own the process since it is tied to business strategy.

4. All Or Nothing – If you try to do too much at once, the process will become overwhelming and the team will give up. Start with a manageable pilot and grow from there.

5. Obsessing Over Stats – We’ve seen teams take one year to pull together stats. Use what you’ve got. Sometimes it’s a best guess, but don’t let the data derail the project.

6. Reactive Recruitment – One major advantage of Workforce Planning is that the company moves out of reactive mode. If the recruitment team is still only reactive, something is broken.

7. External-Only Recruitment Focus – Don’t forget the wealth of internal skill sets already in the company. A good process includes internal mobility, succession planning and professional development. Include internal employees in the recruitment plan.

8. No Budget for Training – Part of Workforce Planning involves identifying internal talent you can move into key roles with some basic training. If no training budget exists, this internal talent cannot be leveraged.

Need support with Workforce Planning? Hudson has tools, processes and templates that can help you engage with your business leaders. Contact us

Get Hudson’s step-by-step guide to Strategic Workforce Planning titled “Strategic Workforce Planning: A Critical Differentiator for Businesses.” (No registration required). Click here to download.

 
 
 

Workforce Planning Data: What Do You Need?

Workforce Planning Data

When it comes to Workforce Planning Data, the key is to avoid getting overwhelmed, get what you can get, and use that as a launching point. At the beginning it’s unlikely you’ll have every last piece of data or analytics you need, but use what you have, create the plan, activate the plan, gather more data as you go, and adjust as necessary.

Workforce Plans are always meant to be living and breathing documents. The market will change, business objectives will change, but without any sort of workforce plan the business will always be in reactive mode.   

What workforce planning data should you collect?


Supporting Data Requirements

  • Number of permanent employees, location, role type, salaries
  • Number of contractors, location, roles, pay rate
  • Bonus data: Prior work history information to identify additional skill sets. Some companies require employees to register within the HRIS so that Talent Acquisition may search for skill sets when needed. Without an HRIS, it may be challenging to obtain this information. For mid-market companies this is a bonus that will make your life easier, but for companies with more than 50,000 employees this is critical for Workforce Planning. If you don’t have it today, work on getting it.


Data for Continuous Improvement
As a general rule, here are the key statistics to benchmark as you execute the Workforce Plan:

  • Retention statistics (identify areas with turnover issues)
  • Time-to-Fill Statistics
  • Cost-Per-Hire
  • Percentage of open positions. How long?
  • Bonus data (but highly recommended): Predictive analytics about who is at risk


Ongoing Evaluation
HR and Talent Acquisition should review the Workforce Plan every three months, and meet with the formal Workforce Planning team (comprised of senior-level business stakeholders) every six months to keep them engaged in the process. Naturally, the Workforce Planning team would meet to respond to any major market changes or shifts in the business plan.

As you continuously evaluate the outcomes, analyze the Workforce Plan effectiveness along the way. Are roles being filled faster? Is retention improving? Are we achieving the expected results? Are we getting the necessary cooperation from the field? This way you’ll identify gaps and course correct as necessary.

Need support with Workforce Planning? Hudson has tools, processes and templates that can help you engage with your business leaders. Contact us

Get Hudson’s step-by-step guide to Strategic Workforce Planning titled “Strategic Workforce Planning: A Critical Differentiator for Businesses.” (No registration required). Click here to download.

 
 
 

Workforce Planning Process: Types of Plans & Team Members Needed

Workforce Planning Process

When kicking off the workforce planning process, you’ll need to understand the typical types of workforce plans and also the team members needed for buy-in and successful outcomes.

There are 2 types of Workforce Plans.

1. Strategic Workforce Plan: aligns to the 3-5 year business plan. Today 3-year plans are more common than 5-year.

2. Operational Plan: aligns to the 12-18 month recruitment forecast.

Once CEO sponsorship is secured, focus on building the Workforce Planning team. The team depends on the size of the business, but ideally it consists of:

  • HR Leader (who also has a seat at Business Planning table)
  • HR Strategy point person
  • Talent Acquisition professional
  • Senior executive representing the overall business
  • IT professional to access the required data
  • Finance executive for input into tax incentives for operating in particular markets


The CHRO leader can spearhead the team, but all stakeholders must feel ownership for the plan. The stakeholders must be senior-level enough to ensure the team is informed quickly of business strategy changes. The project teams for implementation must be accountable to the heads of the business lines and head of the CHRO.

During the workforce planning process, HR and Talent Acquisition provide a critical central view into different business divisions. For example, one segment of the business may be downsizing while another needs to hire. HR and Talent Acquisition can connect these groups to avoid redundancy costs by redeploying people to the open roles (as appropriate).

Why Finance and IT?
Because they are the best possible partners. Finance can assist a keener understanding of tax, accounting, regulatory issues and pro forma studies pertaining to different types of labor. IT can gather the data needed to assess internal attrition rates, time-to-fill statistics, the percentage of positions that remain open beyond a certain threshold, and other insightful workforce analytics guiding more informed decisions. At the same time, IT can be called upon to undertake similar analyses of the external talent market in different geographic regions.

Project Management & Technology Needs
This approach requires traditional project management skills like the setting of objectives, assumptions and deliverables that are reviewed and challenged at specific milestones. It also insists upon the use of technology tools to aggregate needed data for analysis, such as time-to-fill rates, costs-per-hire, worker age rates, and other data sets critical to making informed, assured decisions.

When to Launch into the Workforce Planning Process
Workforce Planning is best done in conjunction with business planning and budgeting so that it informs the business planning exercise. This allows HR and Talent Acquisition leaders to challenge time frames and business assumptions made in the plan based on their knowledge of talent availability and time frames for hiring new talent. It also ensures that proper funds are allocated to recruitment and training.

If you are just getting started and it’s outside of the business planning cycle, it is better to begin than do nothing. However the objective should be to eventually align Workforce Planning with business planning.

Need support with Workforce Planning? Hudson has tools, processes and templates that can help you engage with your business leaders. Contact us

Get Hudson’s step-by-step guide to Strategic Workforce Planning titled “Strategic Workforce Planning: A Critical Differentiator for Businesses.” (No registration required). Click here to download.

 
 
 

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Hudson is a global talent solutions company. We help transform the workplace and unleash the full potential of organizations and individuals. Our expert team and proprietary tools provide you with unique insights and services that help you maximize your success. Across 20 countries, we deliver a range of recruitment, talent management and recruitment process outsourcing solutions to get you and your business where you want to be.